RotaCare Tacoma, a free clinic serving some 150 people with chronic, serious illnesses like diabetes and hypertension in Washington state, closed its doors in January. This clinic closing, though, was a cause for celebration.
The clinic, served by volunteer physicians and registered nurses, had carried 150 patients at any given time to serve the uninsured population in this city of about 200,000. But after Obamacare took full effect in January, and this clinic completed its drive to enroll all of its patients in coverage, it didn't have anyone left to serve.Janet Runbeck, a registered nurse helped oversee the clinic, told TPM that it was all on purpose, that the staff made the decision to put themselves out of business in order to make sure that everyone who used the clinic had permanent "medical homes," regular physicians who could provide comprehensive treatment.
So they shut down at the end of January, the first month that health coverage under Obamacare kicked in. The people who worked there don't seem too torn up about it.
"It happened very quickly. We had to start telling our providers not to come because we didn't have enough patients," Mary Hoagland-Scher, a Tacoma family practitioner who served as the clinic's medical director, told TPM. "It just dried up. Poof."
"People were crying because they got insurance. It worked," Runbeck said. "Chronic disease is what kills most people. It needs to be managed in medical homes, and free clinics are not set up to manage the whole patient."The clinic helped their patients obtain coverage through Obamacare, arranged for community clinics to see the undocumented workers they treated, and then set their patients up with three months of prescriptions and said goodbye. Happily. Because that was what Obamacare was supposed to do. It could happen in a state like Washington, that expanded Medicaid, but in those two dozen states that haven't accepted the expanded program free clinics are still a necessity.