Low-cost and free health clinics that serve large minority and low-income communities are being hit hard by the pandemic, with nearly 2,000 health-center sites closing temporarily and others worried about their financial futures, trends that risk widening racial disparities in health care.
Federally funded community health centers that serve many of these people have temporarily shut many sites, in some cases because they shifted to virtual visits or for a time ceased operations because of staffing shortages. Some centers have also had to scale back traditional, revenue-making primary care services during the pandemic. Additionally, clinics that offer free or charity-based care are seeing a surge in demand, and many are concerned about their financial futures as donations drop off.
Clinics face financial strain as high levels of joblessness leave many patients without job-provided health care. The resulting surge in demand for services at free clinics could result in some patients being turned away, health- clinic officials said.
These challenges, taken together, could further limit access to the health-care system for minority and ethnic groups, compounding the toll the pandemic is already taking on Black, Hispanic, Native American and Alaska Native populations.
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