While it may seem overly simplistic, one of the basic needs of every human being is the capacity to heal from sickness. So what is a person to do when they fall ill and they can’t afford simple treatment? This is the question that a significant percentage of the population is dealing with in 2012. Unemployment remains unsettlingly high and as a result, many Americans find themselves in the difficult situation of not being able to afford healthcare for themselves or their families.
While the welfare system has been set up to accommodate low-income families, not everybody qualifies. Some applicants for federal aid either surpass the qualifying income guidelines by pennies, while others still cannot provide enough financial history to be considered eligible at all.
For individuals and families that find themselves in healthcare limbo, many communities offer helpful resources. For those that do not qualifying for federal help and cannot afford independent health coverage, there are facilities and programs that offer several options.
Free clinics and state-funded health centers are a major part of most communities. While they are accessible, there is undeniably a stigma that surrounds such outreach projects. There is a sense that while these facilities offer free or affordable care, they may not offer the best quality. The assumption is at times that low income families do not deserve the same quality of health care as those that can afford personal insurance.
There is also a tendency for these clinics and programs to be under-promoted. Where a major health care center would have the funds for marketing and advertising teams, smaller free clinics depend on their funds, donations and volunteers to stay afloat. Unfortunately, this means that families who could benefit from their services may not even be aware they exist in the first place.
So how do we break this cycle of belief that those who can’t afford great health care don’t deserve it? The answer may lie in several new initiatives. Instead of creating facilities that aim to just hand-out health care, several new organizations are immerging that are built on the belief that effective healthcare is that which helps a person physically and in terms of their quality of life as well.
These programs thrive by giving low income families the chance to not only receive quality health care, but continue making an effort to move out of poverty.
Economic problems are hardly ever single-pronged issues. It’s not a stretch to say that when a family finds themselves in the position of not being able to financially sustain themselves, several factors have led to them ending up in that position. In a similar vein, health care is not a simple one-time fix. It is a service that a family will need to have access to over an extended period of time for several different reasons. Program coordinators, volunteers and charitable patrons have recognized this and are stepping up to the plate in an effort to find sustainable solutions within the field of healthcare.
Supported by the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation and located in Red Bank, New Jersey; the Parker Family Health Care Center is a free health care facility that runs entirely on volunteer services. They opened their doors in 2000, and to date, serve upwards of 8,600 patients made up of adults and children alike.
While the services they provide are free of charge, the facility demands a high level of dignity, confidentiality and professionalism by setting strict requirements and lofty goals.
The center aims to help those who are in the process of learning to help themselves. This being said, all patients must provide proof that they are residents of Monmouth County and be willing to participate in continuing health education. Eligibility is based on the 2011 Federal Poverty levels and families are only eligible for services if their income is under 300% of that level. In addition, families cannot be eligible for Medicare or Medicaid if they are going to receive services.
The center survives on the goodwill of hundreds of volunteers as well as generous donations. Physicians from multiple specialties donate their time and services daily for the good of those in need. The Parker Family Health Center uses 91 cents of every dollar donated towards patient health care, and do not receive government funding of any sort. While promoting dignified independence for their patients, this system runs itself on the same values.
Sometimes it takes more than just a single facility to reach those who need help. At Boston Health care for the homeless, volunteers, physicians and staff have made an enormous and integrated effort to reach those who can’t afford help. Under the umbrella of Boston Health Care, this organization reaches out to those in need through several different teams. These teams currently consist of a family team, HIV team, street team, shelter team, primary care physicians, respite care professionals and behavioral health team members.
The idea behind specialized services for low-income families and the homeless is allowing vulnerable patients to receive care with dignity and also lend a hand to other organizations that are working on quality life-improvement issues.
When Boston Health Care for the Homeless physicians and volunteers take the time to visit patients on-site at homeless shelters, those shelters are able to better focus on the task of rehabilitation and overall costs can be cut. In this way, a model of integrated, free health care can benefit the suffering and those who are working to improve their quality of life.
While many organizations are taking dramatic steps towards creating new, sustainable and affordable health care for those who need it most, they cannot do it alone. For those who wish to contribute to affordable and dignified health care opportunities there are always ways to give. Each facility mentioned above offers opportunities for individuals to either donate funds online, or volunteer their time. With the demand for health care soaring in the wake of economic struggle, each and every offer of assistance is valuable and appreciated.
Do you know of any unique efforts being made by free health care facilities to offer help in more effective ways? If you do, let us know!