What does ‘health care for all’ mean? It starts with emphasizing dignity for those in our own community.
As one of 1200 free and charitable clinics across the US, Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic is a nonprofit organization built up by those in the community, for the community. We run on the volunteer efforts of area physicians, nurses, and office staff, and we are supported by area donors and regional grants. We receive no state or federal funding, but instead, subsist on the sheer good will of local residents, businesses and organizations.
We are precisely what “health care for all” looks like when a community recognizes the dignity of their neighbors; we are a good place to start. Ideally, free clinics wouldn’t have to exist at all; going out of business, of course, would be a good sign. And yet, we are busier than ever – and continue to grow.
It is a reality that more than half of the US population will dip below the poverty line at some point before the age of 65; many more finding themselves without health insurance for a brief period of time. Because a person’s income or living situation may fluctuate at any given moment, many adults who even qualify for our free health care may not even realize that our services apply to them. Disbelief, shock and surprise; financial and professional insecurity will occur for more than half of us throughout our lives, and yet we are still each caught off guard when it does; we are all unprepared for the vulnerability of losing access to food, shelter, or health care.
When we accept the reality that all of our life plans are often tenuous at best – that we all experience moments of insecurity – we can begin to see ourselves in our struggling neighbor. The necessity of the safety net benefits us all; it is a quiet dignity afforded to everyone who is simply human and needs a moment to catch up. And the evidence suggests that they do catch up, given the right structures in place ready to lend a hand.
People across this state give of themselves – their time and money – to many of the free clinics that provide care to uninsured adults. It is a testament to the fact that health care is important to the people of South Carolina, and it is vital to sustain a prosperous and safe community. Access to health care keeps unpaid ER bills down for hospitals, and eliminates crippling medical debt for those who already struggle to pay their rent. It allows them to put food on the table of their loved ones, and ensures that they are healthy enough to attend work each day. Good health, after all, is the foundation of personal growth.
The growth of our own free clinic demonstrates one thing: no matter how we get there, health care for all is not just necessary, but is critical to maintaining a thriving community and binding us as neighbors. It is an oath etched in the hearts of our volunteer physicians who wake up every morning to treat crowded waiting rooms of Lowcountry caretakers, waiters, landscapers, shop keepers, single mothers, and young adults. It is a hope sealed into envelopes daily, carrying donations from across the state into our mailbox just to keep our clinic open and well stocked. And however we may individually arrive at the answer to the health care question, the message we receive at BIFMC is clear: Health care is a human dignity. For those at our clinic who practice medicine, it is a right to be given when called forth. For those who send in donations and share in the plight of our cause, it is a rite of passage to a better place to live for all. Together, we accomplish great things when we quietly prepare for the challenges ahead.
According to the Census Data on Poverty, Income and Health Care, 1 in 8 people in the US live in poverty. It is our sincere belief that 8 in 8 people deserve access to health care.
-Carrie Moores, Outreach & Communicational Manager, Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic
Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic is a free clinic in Charleston, SC, that provides free medical care to eligible patients, just like any family practitioner or internist. The Free Clinic serves uninsured adults living at or below 299 % of the Federal poverty level who live or work on Johns, James, & Wadmalaw Island or Folly Beach, or serve the Hospitality Industry of Downtown Charleston. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.