Leaders from the Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics went to Tallahassee Thursday to personally ask lawmakers to keep them in the budget this year.
What they’re asking for: at least $4.5 million in appropriations to serve 14,000 more uninsured Floridians.
“These clinics play a critical role,” says Nick Duran, head of the association.
Duran says that the clinics have been especially important for people who fall into the “Medicaid gap”—they don’t make enough to afford insurance, but they don’t qualify for Medicaid.
Last year’s budget set aside $9.5 million for Florida’s Free and Charitable Clinics. But Gov. Rick Scott gave it a line-item veto.
Beth Houghton, executive director of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, said like many other clinics, the first cuts affected patients with a common chronic disease: diabetes. Now, fewer insulin supplies and diabetes education classes are available.
And Houghton said some patients will suffer.
"You have consequences like loss of sight, loss of limbs, circulatory problems, nerve pain, people not able to work,” she said.
In addition the cuts to diabetes programs, Houghton said the $200,000 cut to the St. Petersburg clinic canceled plans to buy an electronic medical records system and plans to expand dental services.
"All of those are real consequences of not being able to touch more patients,” she said.
This year’s proposed budget has another $9.5 million set aside for the clinics and Duran says his network is operating under the belief that there will be no veto this time.