Las Vegas Review-Journal (05.19.2013)
Many unemployed persons lost the safety net of health insurance during the recent recession. Throughout Southern Nevada, organizations such as nonprofit healthcare facilities, medical practices, government agencies, and retail clinics are trying to make a difference in the lives of those without health insurance by providing discounted and occasionally free healthcare. Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation’s statistics indicate that 22 percent of Nevada’s population is uninsured, second only to Texas at 24 percent. Nevada has the highest national percentage of uninsured children ages 0 to 18, at 19 percent.
One organization trying to help is the Volunteers in Medicine of Southern Nevada. In 2010, they designed a clinic to meet the needs of the uninsured. The clinic uses more than 700 volunteers, including nurses, physicians, and office staff. Annually, Volunteers in Medicine of Southern Nevada provides $4 million in free, long-term healthcare to patients who are barely surviving economically. The nonprofit organization needs to raise approximately $1 million a year to survive and relies on donated hours from University of Nevada School of Medicine physicians.
Another organization providing care is Nevada Health Centers, a nonprofit first established in the 1970s, and Nevada’s largest network of community health centers. The federal Community Health Center Program provides grants and oversees medical care to Nevada Health Centers. Services are not free; the low-income, uninsured patients pay for the services on a sliding-fee scale.
The Huntridge Teen Clinic provides dental and medical services to teens ages 12 to 18 without health insurance. Businesses and charitable foundations donate to the nonprofit clinic, which relies on dentists and physicians volunteering their services. It partners with the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) Dental School and Valley Hospital. The clinic asks patients to pay a $20 fee for every visit if possible, but fees often can be as low as $5 and, in some cases, waived.
More examples of healthcare for the underinsured include the Southern Nevada Health District, which offers a family planning clinic with a sliding-fee scale based on income. The district also provides free Healthy Kids medical evaluations by nurse practitioners. UNLV’s The Practice is a campus-based community mental health clinic that provides services to all residents regardless of income or access to insurance. UNLV also offers counseling services based on sliding-fee scale at the Center for Individual, Couple, and Family Counseling. Walgreens provides medical services at onsite walk-in clinics, and maintains more than 360 Take Care Clinics in its retail stores, 13 of which are in the Las Vegas area. These are for-profit clinics operated by family nurse practitioners and physician assistants, but they do accept patients without health insurance. Costs for services also tend to be on the lower end. A Rand Corporation study found that retail clinics’ care is approximately 80 percent less expensive than similar services in an emergency room, and is 30–40 percent less costly than at a physician’s office.