PARKERSBURG - The need for a free medical clinic remains despite the Affordable Care Act has made it possible to obtain health care insurance, officials said.
In 1991, the Good Samaritan Clinic opened its doors in downtown Parkersburg. Later the clinic moved to a larger building at 911 Emerson Ave. and two years ago the clinic moved to the current location at 418 Grand Park Drive, Suite 311, Parkersburg.
Cindy Moore, executive director of the Good Samaritan Clinic, said the clinic is still open for business and was not closed with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Photo by Jeffrey Saulton
Samara Linnell, a nurse practitioner at the Good Samaritan Clinic, does an examination.
"People tend to think free clinics will not be needed; we want people to know we are still open and who we will serve," she said. "The Affordable Care Act provided Medicaid and the option of purchasing insurance through the market place for the uninsured. We will serve fewer people because many of our patients have gotten the expanded Medicaid and some have gotten insurance."
Moore said in the past they saw patients who were up to 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines that had no insurance.
"Now our focus will be on those people who are between 139 and 250 percent who did not qualify for Medicaid for a variety of reasons," she said. "Or they qualified for insurance but no matter how low the premiums and co-pays were, they didn't think they could afford it when their budgets were already strapped."
Elizabeth Strobl, administrative assistant, said the population will change. She said they have also seen people who did not sign up due to problems with the insurance exchange roll out.
"There were so many complications with the roll out process, so many people became nervous and had issues enrolling that they gave up," she said.
Moore said the clinic will still serve those without insurance and there are some exceptions to allow them to see some who have Medicaid or insurance.
"One exception is you have Medicaid and you try to get in to a provider and they can't see you for a couple of months," she said. "They need a place to come in the meantime and a place to get their prescriptions. If they need that gap covered we can help."
Another exception is for those who did not enroll in time and need help until the next enrollment period for the insurance exchange in October. Moore said the enrollment for the expanded Medicaid is open enrollment unlike the insurance exchanges that are closed until October.
Moore and Strobl said from Oct. 1 to March 31 they had someone in the office to assist with the general enrollment process. When the next enrollment period begins, the clinic will direct people to where they need for assistance to sign up.
"We were helping people figure where they fell for Medicaid or insurance and for the benefits," Strobl said. "Our person who assisted clients was an educator on the whole process. She gave them the tools to make those decisions."
Moore said they want them to be aware of what is out there.
"We want to make them aware of what benefits they will have whether it is with Medicaid or insurance and also make them aware of the penalty if they don't enroll."
Moore said they expected and did see the number of appointments decrease but that number has begun to increase.
"People have begun to call again for appointments," she said. "Once the word is out and people realize we are not closing and we are still open for business that number will increase."
Moore said they are researching the possibility of becoming a Medicaid provider. She said free clinics in other parts of the state are seeing Medicaid patients and others will be taking them soon.