Free Healthcare For Neighbors and Friends
Nicole Lamoureux, CEO of National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC) and Carr Workplaces client, shares why there is a need for free healthcare even after the Affordable Care Act.
CW: Tell us about yourself. You’ve been at NAFC for 9 years. How did you get here?
Nicole: Prior to joining the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics, I worked for the National Association of Home Builders and the American Horse Council. I always say that I can’t build a house and horses don’t particularly like me, however, my previous roles at these Associations prepared me to serve as the CEO of the NAFC. This is truly the best job I have ever had. Each day I have the honor of helping people receive and provide health care to our neighbors and friends. Each day I am inspired by our volunteers, clinics and our patients.
CW: Tell us about NAFC, its mission and goals.
Nicole: The National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC) was founded in 2001 by a group of grassroots medical providers and organizers who recognized that health care was not being provided at a local level to the working poor, uninsured and underinsured in our country in a way that was cost effective, accessible and affordable.
Many people do not realize that there are approximately 1,200 Free and Charitable Clinics throughout the nation who since the 1960’s have been filling in the gap for those who “fall through the cracks” in our current health care system. These clinics receive little to no state or federal funding, do not receive HRSA 330 funds and are not Federally Qualified Health Centers or Rural Health Centers.
Free and Charitable Clinics are safety-net health care organizations that utilize a volunteer/staff model to provide a range of medical, dental, pharmacy, vision and/or behavioral health services to economically disadvantaged individuals. Such clinics are 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, or operate as a program component or affiliate of a 501(c)(3) organization. Entities that otherwise meet the above definition, but charge a nominal/sliding fee to patients, may still be considered Free or Charitable Clinics provided essential services are delivered regardless of the patient's ability to pay. Free or Charitable Clinics restrict eligibility for their services to individuals who are uninsured, underinsured and/or have limited or no access to primary, specialty or prescription health care.
The mission of the NAFC is to ensure that the medically underserved have access to affordable quality health care. However, it is our larger vision of being a national voice promoting quality health care for all that motivates donors, volunteers, and communities around the country to join our cause, as we work together to build a healthy America, one patient at a time. Within our Association, we value volunteerism, generosity, collaboration and human dignity.
CW: How has the need for these clinics morphed with the advent of healthcare reform?
Nicole: One of the most common misconceptions about how the United States will look after the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is that there will no longer be a need for our clinics to continue to provide charity care as a member of the safety net. In fact, many are surprised to hear that even after full implementation of the ACA, according to the Congressional Budget Office, there may be as many as 29 million people, including documented, undocumented and those who are eligible for Medicaid but reside in states that are not going to expand this program, and who are still without access to health insurance. In the upcoming months and years, doctors, hospitals, navigators, states, clinics and patients will be addressing the needs of the underserved with respect to affordability, accessibility and portability of primary, specialty, dental care and medication access.
CW: You’ve mentioned in the past that free and charitable clinics are incubators for innovative ideas and partnerships. How so? How has that changed over time and what does that look like going forward?
Nicole: Given that Free & Charitable Clinics are the communities response to the health care needs in their area, I am constantly amazed at the partnerships between clinics, businesses, hospitals and entire communities. Perhaps one of the most exciting partnerships is the $1.5 million dollar multi-year commitment that CVS has made to our clinics across the country to help them provide coordinated health care to their patients. In the future, innovative and exciting public/private partnerships will allow clinics to continue providing health care to those who have been left behind in our current health care system.
CW: You’ve also spoken of the importance of volunteerism. Can you speak to that and your vision of the ideal volunteer?
Nicole: It is through the generosity of thousands of medical and non-medical volunteers that the NAFC member clinics are able to provide over 6 million patient visits to the medically underserved in communities across the country. An ideal volunteer is someone who simply wants to give back and wants to help make their community a healthier place to live.
CW: How do you engage with volunteers to keep them long-term?
Nicole: We utilize printed and electronic communications, social media and in person meetings and events to engage with our volunteers and have them remain engaged with our programs. It is important to say thank you and to remain connected with the people who are so willing to give of themselves to help us make health care a reality and not a dream for our patients.
CW: What are the biggest challenges of your role?
Nicole: The biggest challenge of my role is helping people understand that the Affordable Care Act was just a first step in providing health care to some people in our country and that there is still so much work to do in the health care arena.
CW: What part does technology play in your mission?
Nicole: Given that the NAFC is such a small staff, it is critical that we utilize technology as a way to stay connected to our clinics, our patients and each other as we travel. We use a cloud based email system and database, and thanks to CARR have our voicemails sent directly to our emails - so we are always in touch.
CW: How do you approach fundraising for NAFC?
Nicole: The NAFC is funded through donations, grants, corporate support and membership dues. We do not receive any federal or state funding. Out of every $1 donated, 90 cents goes directly to programs. We are so grateful for the generosity of so many individuals who believe in our mission and want to help us make America healthier, one person at a time.
CW: Seems like a big job with so many facets. What inspires you at work?
Nicole: The NAFC is a very small office. There are just three of us working for and with the 1,200 Free & Charitable Clinics across the country. I am constantly inspired by the work of the clinics and our volunteers; however, daily I am inspired by my team members Kerry and Ariana. Their dedication and willingness to go above and beyond every single day makes me want to be a better person and team member. I am inspired by who they are as women and who they have helped me become as a leader.
CW: How does that translate to the rest of your life?
Nicole: Outside of work I try to be as dedicated and loyal as possible and I hope that I will leave this world a little bit better than I found it.
CW: We heard that there is bobble-head in your life that travels the world – true?
Nicole: Bobblehead Nicole spends a great deal of time on the road traveling from one location to another. She is our version of a flat Stanley or the Travelocity gnome. She is a way to get people involved in our mission and our vision and just a fun way to tell the story of the work that we do everyday.