As part of the safety net, free clinics (FCs) increase access to preventive and primary care for the uninsured. This study compared a group of uninsured FC users and a group of uninsured non-FC users to explore the impact of FC enrollment on the pattern of ED visits, as characterized by (1) level of complexity of care received at the ED, and (2) avoidable vs. unavoidable as classified by an existing clinical algorithm. Emergency department visits by FC users were less likely to be low-level-of-care than visits by non-FC users (OR 0.89, 95% CI 0.84–0.93). Free clinic enrollment was not a statistically significant predictor of avoidable visits (p=.6465). We found that the group of individuals who had access to primary care at the local FCs were significantly less likely than the group of uninsured individuals who were not enrolled in a FC to use the ED for care with lower levels of clinical complexity. Thus, the cost of increasing the primary care workforce as the Medicaid population expands may be worth it in the long run. Further exploration into what characterizes an effective FC is needed.


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pp. 1189-1204
Launched on MUSE
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