State Representative Ron Young (R- Leroy Township) has introduced a bill designed to strengthen the operations of free clinics and allow Medicaid patients to have greater access to healthcare options.

Regarding the legislation, Representative Young said:

“Free Clinics play a critical role in the delivery of health care in Ohio. They help to reduce inappropriate use of hospital emergency rooms and provide critically needed care, which allows many citizens to hold jobs and be productive members of our communities. For example, free clinics provide life-saving health maintenance drugs, such as insulin, for diabetic patients. Reduction in illness, sometimes by something as easy as a doctor visit and provision of 10 days’ worth of antibiotics, translates directly to reduction in lost work, lost wages, and lost time from school and sports. This results in an increase in active participation in our communities, strengthens families, and builds self esteem. Free clinics provide all this care very efficiently. In fact, the best estimates indicate that, for every dollar spent, the clinics deliver nearly $18 in care. This is an exceptional statistic, and no other delivery scheme delivers care so cost effectively.”

Medicaid patients sometimes have a problem getting timely access to medical care. The bill allows Medicaid recipients to be treated in a free clinic setting by doctors and nurses that have a Volunteer Certificate. By expanding the clientele that those with a volunteer certificate can treat, more options for treatment are offered. Under the provisions of the bill, free clinics will continue to operate free of charge. Also, doctors volunteering for no pay at free clinics would be protected under the medical malpractice provisions of the Good Samaritan Act while treating Medicaid patients.

The bill will create a volunteer certificate for retired nurses. Currently retired nurses may not obtain a volunteer certificate and therefore cannot practice in a free clinic without having an active license. Many would like to serve, but the cost of licensing is an obstacle. The volunteer certificate is free. Those holding a volunteer certificate will not be permitted to receive payment for services.

In addition to the above changes, a state income tax deduction was added to encourage more doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to volunteer at a free clinic. Also included is a state income tax deduction for mileage to and from free clinics for clinic medical volunteers.

The final part of the bill creates the Free Clinic Appreciation Month in the month of December. It is the hope that celebrating this month will make people more aware of the contributions free clinics make and encourage them to donate more time and money to make them even more successful.

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