$10M for free clinics

Blue Cross boosts free-clinic services in North Carolina.

The number of North Carolinians served by free health clinics is expected to more than double by 2009, to more than 300,000 from 125,000, thanks to a $10 million grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation.

The five-year grant to the N.C. Association of Free Clinics will increase to 85 from 57 the number of free health clinics and pharmacies in the state.

By 2009, the association says, patients served by free clinics and pharmacies will receive $150 million worth of health services, including 750,000 prescriptions, up from $60 million now, including 350,000 prescriptions.

Every free clinic in the state will be eligible for a base grant from the foundation, and for other aid for needs such as service expansion, technology and programs for people with chronic medical conditions.

The grant also will be used for start-up aid to create new clinics, an annual flu-shot program for all clinics, and planning grants and matching grants.

The U.S. has roughly 600 free clinics, which are private, nonprofit, community-based groups that provide medical care for free or for minimal charges to low-income, uninsured and underinsured people through the use of volunteer health-care professionals and partnerships with other health-care providers.

North Carolina has more free medical clinics than any other state.

The grant is the largest the foundation has made, and the largest the association has received.

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