Blue Cross extends pledge to free clinics

ClinicCHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation has extended its commitment to the North Carolina Association of Free Clinics with another $10 million investment starting in 2009.

This June will mark the final year of an earlier five-year, $10 million commitment by the foundation to the organization of nonprofit health clinics, staffed by volunteers, that provide basic medical and dental care to the uninsured.

Free clinics often provide prescription drugs and chronic illness maintenance, and receive no compensation for their services.

The statewide association has 74 member clinics.

The number of clinics and the counties they serve both have grown by 32 percent since the foundation’s original pledge in 2004.

Total patient visits during that period have grown 50 percent, while the cost of health-care services they provide has increased two-thirds to $186 million.

Ninety-percent percent of the clinics the foundation grant supports say they have leveraged the funds to secure additional support, foundation officials say. Many of the clinics have also increased their hours and interpreter services.

Foundation officials say the new funding is the largest follow-up grant it ever has awarded to the same organization.

North Carolina has the largest network of free clinics in the U.S.

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