The Perceived Impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on North Carolina's Free Clinics.
BACKGROUND: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) may dramatically affect the demographics of the uninsured population and the funding prospects for free health clinics. METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of 64 of 80 free clinics (80.0% response rate) in North Carolina to assess free clinic directors' knowledge of the ACA and their perceptions of how the ACA would affect clinic operations. RESULTS: Free clinic directors were knowledgeable about well publicized aspects of the ACA (eg, lack of Medicaid expansion in North Carolina), but they were less knowledgeable about provisions such as the Federal Tort Claims Act and high-risk pools, which may have direct and indirect effects on free clinics. Directors expressed concern over the unintended consequences of the ACA, such as reduced funding and reduced volunteerism. Anticipated clinic changes as a result of the ACA include initiation of electronic medical records and, to a lesser extent, a move to become "hybrid" clinics (federally qualified health center look-alikes). LIMITATIONS: This study is focused on North Carolina free clinics that are members of the North Carolina Association of Free Clinics (NCAFC). Findings cannot be generalized to non-NCAFC free clinics or to free clinic networks outside the state. CONCLUSIONS: Despite its effort to expand health insurance coverage, the ACA may have unintended consequences to low-cost free clinics that serve uninsured populations.
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