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For South Florida's free clinics, it's business as usual -- or more than usual -- despite ACA

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Miami Herald photo

When the Affordable Care Act became law, Sandra Lozano looked forward to the day when the patients who rely on her free health clinic in Fort Lauderdale would be covered. But even though the new healthcare marketplace has finally launched, at the Light of the World clinic, it’s like the ACA never happened.

“We’re seeing a tremendous increase in people coming to us,” said Lozano, executive director at the clinic, where applications for charitable care are up 25 percent since October.

From Miami to Key West, other free and low-cost clinics say they’ve seen little impact from Obamacare — no drop-off in patient loads and sometimes even an increase, like the Fort Lauderdale clinic.

“We had 8,016 patient encounters last year and don’t expect a change any time soon. We’re looking to expand,” Lozano said.

The nonprofit clinics, which are run largely by volunteers, provide healthcare to uninsured people with incomes up to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). The ACA should provide an alternative for many of their patients, but it’s not playing out that way so far, at least in South Florida.

Some of the clinic patients don’t earn enough to qualify for a tax credit that would help them afford insurance premiums. Others lack the required immigration status. Still others are caught in lags between charitable and other coverage. Clinic staff members say that as long as Florida doesn’t expand Medicaid, their services will be in demand. Read more.

  

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