Their Only Option

Every day, hundreds of sick and injured patients walk into free and charitable clinics around the Tampa Bay area in need of a doctor.

Many are suffering from chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Some patients were referred to the clinics by staff at hospitals where they landed after years of neglecting to care for treatable conditions.

The clinics allow the patients to pay what they can, or nothing at all. They are staffed by doctors and nurses who volunteer their time. They survive off donations and small grants.

Many of the patients have jobs but they are living paycheck to paycheck. None have health insurance, either because they do not qualify for Medicaid or can’t afford private coverage. For these patients, the clinics are often their only option for primary care.

The “Their Only Option” series is produced as a project for the University of Southern California Center For Health Journalism’s National Fellowship.

Free Clinics Provide Care For Uninsured

Many Floridians have jobs but can't afford health insurance. For those patients, the more than 100 free and charitable clinics in Florida are their only option for health care.
   

Confusion Ahead of Obamacare Enrollment

Before open enrollment in the Obamacare marketplace began, many patients who came into free clinics for care were confused about whether the law still existed.
   

Clinic Helps Patients Get Hep C Cure

Most uninsured patients who use free clinics can’t afford the $94,000 cure for hepatitis C. But a Bradenton clinic is working with the drug’s maker to provide it for free to qualified, low-income patients.
   

Mental Health Care Elusive For Uninsured

One in five Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness over the course of their lifetime. But for patients with no insurance or ability to pay, there are few options for treatment.
   

Universal Health Care Gains Traction

Those who provide health care to the uninsured don’t always agree on the best way to cover them while keeping costs in check. But one idea keeps coming up: universal health care.