The Cape Fear Clinic has long served as a resource for local residents who can’t afford medical care. With the rollout of the federal Affordable Care Act, some changes are being made, but the clinic’s core mission is unchanged.
The nonprofit corporation was founded in 1991 as the Tileston Health Clinic to provide medical care “to those in southeastern North Carolina who would otherwise be unable to access care,” said John Devaney, the clinic’s executive director.
Cape Fear Clinic’s charity-care qualified patients have no other form of health insurance or government health assistance. They have incomes of no more than 200 percent of
federal poverty guidelines.
“We do not ask our charity-care qualified patients to pay any co-pays or patient fees related to their care,” Devaney said.
The clinic has 12 employees and receives vital support from more than 300 active volunteers. Volunteers include doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmacy technicians, dentists, hygienists “and dozens of others who may not have experience in health care but have a desire to help our patients,” Devaney said.
Also important are collaborative partnerships with other agencies, especially Cape Fear HealthNet, the region’s “safety-net” organization made up of over 17 local agencies and organizations, Devaney said.
“Moving forward, the clinic is developing into what we term a charitable clinic as opposed to a traditional free clinic,” he said.
Cape Fear Clinic is becoming credentialed to accept third-party insurance, Medicaid and Medicare and other income streams, “while never forgetting that the poorest of our patients do not qualify for assistance from the Affordable Care Act and will continue to be our charity-care patients,” Devaney said.
Many patients who will become insured want to continue their care with the clinic or may not be able to find a practice accepting new patients or their insurance plan, he said.
As the transition process continues, Devaney said Cape Fear Clinic’s core goal will never be forgotten.
“No patient will ever be turned away from care because they are unable to pay,” he said.
Cape Fear Clinic officials forecast that over the next three years, between 30 and 40 percent of its patients will be able to receive insurance. That leaves at least 60 percent uninsured and qualifying for the clinic’s charity-care services.
“Even with the explosive growth of the clinic over the last four years and our expected growth moving forward, we are still only able to serve a small portion of those in need who would qualify for care,” Devaney said.
In the first quarter of this year, Cape Fear Clinic served 610 unduplicated patients with 1,349 appointments. In 2013, the organization served 1,461 unduplicated patients with a total of 6,331 appointments.
In the first quarter of 2014, Cape Fear Clinic’s pharmacy dispensed 3,731 prescriptions.