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What you need to know for 01/20/2018

Free clinic runs out of lives

Free clinic runs out of lives

Bold experiment won't be forgotten

The Schenectady Free Health Clinic has been on borrowed time ever since Eliot Spitzer offended Democratic sensibilities by yanking a discretionary contribution that originated with his predecessor and constituted a good chunk of its annual budget.

That was four years ago, and it’s taken a Herculean effort by a mostly-volunteer staff, and the generosity of a recession-ravaged community, to keep the clinic’s doors open for the 2,500 uninsured county residents who depended on it for medical care and drugs. But the operators have finally run out of hats to pull rabbits from, and the clinic will soon be history. It will be missed, but not so terribly if the community’s remaining health care providers can pick up the slack.

The clinic catered to people who were too poor to pay for their own medical care but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. The recent expansion of programs like Child Health Plus and Family Health Plus, relaxed Medicaid eligibility standards and, yes, Obamacare, should make it easier for some of the clinic’s patients to get treated at places like Ellis Medicine and Hometown Health Centers, and because those facilities also maintain hardship programs it seems unlikely that any of the clinic’s patients will get turned away.

But many were dependent on maintenance drugs to deal with their health problems, including mental health ones; without those drugs, their conditions could deteriorate. Many could find themselves out of work, and in need of more-costly emergency care.

The clinic operated, drugs and all, on a budget of just $525,000 a year, and it seems unlikely that any combination of paid-care facilities will be able to do so, for that many people, more cheaply. We just hope the patients aren’t the ones to suffer any consequences.

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