Along with free and charitable clinics across Wisconsin, the Free Clinic of the Greater Menomonie Area celebrated the first annual Free and Charitable Clinics Week from April 4 until April 10. Community members visited the UW-Stout Wellness Fair to learn about the essential health care services the clinic provides to medically underserved Wisconsin residents.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 410,000 Wisconsin residents remain uninsured. Approximately a quarter of these uninsured residents are not eligible for any assistance under the Affordable Care Act because they have access to employer coverage that may be considered affordable or have incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid or Marketplace subsidies.
These individuals can access essential health care services through free and charitable clinics. Locally, access to health care includes guidance and information regarding eligibility for various affordable insurance options and community resources, clinic visits, medications, education, specialist and dental care referrals, and behavioral health concerns.
“Our clinic fills a critical need for health care services, particularly for hard-working adults struggling to make ends meet,” said Elizabeth Ritz Witt, free clinic coordinator and supervisor in Menomonie. “Free and Charitable Clinics Week gives us an opportunity to share the progress we’ve made during the 11 years we have been in the community and the services we provide.”
The Free Clinic of the Greater Menomonie Area provides approximately 375 visits to both new and returning patients, with volunteer physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals providing more than 1,550 hours of care to those who have fallen through the cracks of our healthcare system.
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“While the ACA has helped more than 207,000 Wisconsinites obtain health insurance this past enrollment period, gaps remain for those who still cannot obtain insurance,” said Dr. Katherine Gaulke, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Association of Free and Charitable Clinics.
According to the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, at least six health insurance companies sought premium rate increases of 10 percent to 33 percent. Unlike other states, Wisconsin has not rejected high rate increases since 2011. Wisconsin’s average benchmark plan premium in the federal exchange was the fourth highest in the nation at $373 per month and averaged a 9-percent increase over the previous year.
“We welcome the opportunity to highlight the work that Wisconsin’s 70 free and charitable clinics are doing to address those gaps,” Dr. Gaulke said.