Free clinic expands eligibility requirements to service more people in the Valley

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — As of January 1st, the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Free Clinic expanded its eligibility requirements to increase healthcare access to thousands in the community.

Following the statewide Medicaid expansion, the Clinic realized there were members of the community who did not qualify for government assistance, but still needed healthcare assistance.

The Free Clinic Board voted to expand the eligibility requirements for patients to those up to 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

"We started looking at where the continued need in the community is, and based on consensus data, we were able to come up with approximately 5,000 people who would still be without insurance in the Harrisonburg-Rockingham area," said Sage Summer, Executive Director of the Free Clinic. "We also looked at what United Way has been sharing about the ALICE population, and we wanted to expand our financial guidelines to include that group."

ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. According to United Way, the ALICE population includes individuals who earn more than the official Federal Poverty Level, but less than the basic cost of living.

More than 38 percent of households in Harrisonburg and 29 percent of households in Rockingham County are living at the ALICE threshold which is a survival budget of $22,164 for an individual and $66,180 for a family of four. Living with this type of bare-minimum budget does not allow for any savings and leaves many households vulnerable to sudden, unforeseen circumstances, according to Sage.

"We understand that this adds an extra component to what we'll be doing at the Free Clinic. We have a greater group in the community that we will be able to do outreach to and provide care to," said Sage. "The other piece of this expansion, though, is going to be working with those new patients and helping them understand how to navigate their care, as well as, a lot of patient education."

If you are interested in becoming a patient at the Free Clinic, you can call (540) 433-5431. Appointments for eligibility are available and walk-ins are welcome, however, you are asked to bring proof of income and residency.