Free Care Clinic Starting Fourth Year

Reprinted with permission of The Pilot, Southern Pines, NC 2007

BY CLAUDIA WATSON: SPECIAL TO THE PILOT

Moore Free Care Clinic opened April 29, 2004, and in that time it has treated more than 1,300 limited-income residents of Moore County who are uninsured and can't afford access to health care.

Many residents do not, or cannot, access the healthcare necessary to improve their health and enhance their quality of life. Patients without health coverage and unable to afford private insurance tend to be less compliant with care plans, prescription medication regimens and follow-up care.

The result is an exacerbation of conditions that may otherwise be easily controlled. Those who fall through the cracks of the public health system often seek care only in emergency situations.

The clinic's patients are adults, ages 18-64, and they represent a microcosm of the county's population. A patient is typically high school-educated, perhaps with some college experience, and is often working, but either can't afford, is not offered, or is not eligible for health insurance.

Sometimes, persons may lack health insurance because they work more than one part-time job when full-time employment with benefits is not available. The clinic also sees many unemployed and estimates that approximately 11.4 percent of Moore County residents fall at or below the federal poverty level.

To qualify for care, a person must be a resident of Moore County, lack health insurance, and receive income at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty guideline to be eligible for the services of the clinic. (When the clinic first opened in 2004, the eligibility base was 100 percent of the federal poverty guideline.)

The 2007 federal poverty guideline for an individual is $10,210, or $20,650 for a family of four using the 100 percent guideline.

Using the 133 percent guideline, an individual with an income at or below $13,584, or a family of four with an income at or below $27,468, would qualify for assistance. U.S. citizenship is not a criterion for services at Moore Free Care Clinic.

Serves Many Needs

The clinic provides high-quality primary and preventive medical care, mental health care and prescription medications. Medications are provided either through financial assistance from the clinic, or temporarily with samples, but, for the most part, the clinic enrolls its patients into the patient assistance programs offered by the pharmaceutical companies.

Several specialty clinics have been established at the clinic such as chronic disease management, cardiology, orthopaedic, ENT, physical therapy/back pain, ophthalmology and dental. In special circumstances, the clinic arranges for off-site specialty care referrals.

This summer, the clinic will begin providing mentors to patients to assist them with health education, advocacy, and health-care compliance.

All health-care services are free of charge. Both as a means to support the clinic and as a way to have patients take an active role in the maintenance of their health, the clinic offers patients the opportunity to give a donation for health care or prescription drugs.

While there is a paid staff of five full-time employees at the clinic, medical and nursing volunteers also care for patients at the clinic, and all medical providers are licensed by the state.

Moore Free Care Clinic is a community-led initiative that works in collaboration with other health care providers to provide care to those at risk in the community. In 2006, the clinic provided nearly $1 million in services.

Multiple Funding Sources

Moore Free Care Clinic does not receive any federal or state funding. Its sustainability is a community-wide effort which includes donations from individuals, businesses, churches, and civic groups.

In addition, it has received grants including: Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, FirstHealth of the Carolinas, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, Moore County Community Foundation, North Carolina Association of Free Clinics, Pinehurst Medical Clinic, Pinehurst Surgical, John W. and Marjorie A. Roffe Endowment and The Duke Endowment.

The Moore County commissioners and the Moore County Department of Health generously allow the free clinic to operate in the same building with the Health Department in Carthage at a cost of $1 a year.

Moore Free Care Clinic is one of 69 free clinics in 46 counties in North Carolina. The clinics reach and support residents in 72 counties.

Anyone wanting to make a donation to the clinic can send it to Moore Free Care Clinic, 705 Pinehurst Ave., PO Box 1656, Carthage, NC, 28327.

The telephone number is 947-6550 and the Web address is www.MooreFreeCare.org.