Proposed cuts by governor means free clinics could suffer

By Gene Petriello - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The proposed budget cuts by Gov. Bob McDonnell could mean $1.8 million would be taken away from the Virginia Association of Free Clinics for the next two fiscal years.

It would be a cut of 15 percent in 2011 and 40 percent in 2012. It's those cuts that people at the Fan Free Clinic hope do not happen.

The size of the cut is a surprise for many, including those who need and pack the Fan Free Clinic on a daily basis.

"It is always busy because the demand for our service is always greater than we can supply. We just don't have the budget for it," says John Baumann, the executive director of the Fan Free Clinic.

That budget may get even tighter. There are 58 free clinics like this one across the state and if Gov. McDonnell's cut of $1.8 million goes through the General Assembly, the reality may be tough to take.

"Cutting us is like cutting down to the bone. It's not cutting muscle and fat," says Baumann.

While it may not mean the end of free care in the state, it does mean about a 50 percent cut in funding over the next two years.

"We're dealing with poor people that have no health insurance so what are they going to do? The fear is that it will mean less care, fewer people will be cared here," says Baumann.

The cuts go even deeper. It would mean less money to spend on the staff here, medical supplies and even the basics like lights.

Another blow would be to the patients who use the clinic often, since Virginia does not allow you to simply sign up for Medicaid.

"Just being poor doesn't qualify you for medicaid. That's why free clinics are needed," says Baumann. "We're just going to keep our fingers crossed that before the session ends we're going to get better results."

They hope that this also results in keeping the care they provide here, going just as it is right now.

Going forward, what they plan do here is hit the streets, go to the General Assembly and talk to the community letting them know how important these free clinics are for people in and around our area.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.