Free Clinics:  A Solution That Can Work... Now!

Kevin C. Kelleher, MD
JAMA. 1991;266(6):838-840. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03470060100035.
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FREE CLINICS have formed nationwide as a grass-roots effort to provide health care to a largely indigent and disenfranchised target population. Born in the radical 1960s, free clinics have evolved into well-respected health care centers providing outpatient services primarily to the working poor. Their current success is testimony to their broad-based community support and to the voluntarism of the medical community. With no federal support and little local governmental support, there are over 200 free clinics in the United States, many with 15-year histories. They are functioning with little networking and have developed independent solutions to the problem of providing care to the uninsured. These solutions are surprisingly uniform.

First, free clinics are based in neighborhoods where there is need. Access and transportation are big problems for the uninsured, and accessibility is limited by any other solution. Familiarity also encourages use. Also, a strong identification occurs with a neighborhood clinic


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