New Data Shows Surge in Demand for Free Healthcare Services Amid COVID-19

National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics reports 74% of its providers have seen increase in patient demand

With nearly 50M Americans currently unemployed in August, many are consequently left without health insurance. As a result, new survey findings* from The National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (NAFC) show a surge in new patients seeking no/low-cost medical care. NAFC, a privately-funded 501c3 non-profit organization, supports the 1,400 Free and Charitable Clinics and Pharmacies nationwide that provide a safety net for the uninsured. The group’s recent survey results demonstrate the evolving needs of at-risk populations during the pandemic. 

Among the survey’s findings:

  • 74% of NAFC member clinics have experienced an increase in new, unemployed patients inquiring about care
  • Nearly half of clinics are providing essential patient needs like medication and food via drive-thru or delivery 
  • 1 in 5 of NAFC member clinics are performing on-site COVID-19 testing; another 50% have referred patients to local health departments or hospitals for tests 
  • 67% of clinics have implemented telehealth/telemedicine services due to the pandemic 
  • 91% of NAFC member clinics continue to see patients with chronic conditions including diabetes and hypertension
  • 80% of clinics identify funding as a leading operational concern.  Additional top needs include Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Medical Volunteers. 

Free and Charitable Clinics and Pharmacies historically serve about two million patients nationwide each year. With 47% of clinics located in top-ten COVID-19 hot spot states, the organization anticipates a continued increase in demand for services, even as much-needed fundraising efforts are hindered by the pandemic.

“NAFC and our members provide a critical safety net for those who otherwise cannot afford or access healthcare,” said Nicole Lamoureux, NAFC President and CEO. “The pandemic is impacting both healthcare needs and the financial livelihoods of vulnerable populations: demand for our services is greater than we’ve ever seen.”

The organization notes that, without these clinics as a resource, many of their patients would be forced to seek treatment at emergency rooms, which are publicly funded by taxpayer dollars.  The 6.9 million patient visits per year translates to approximately $9.6 billion in saved ER costs. Free and Charitable Clinics receive little to no government funding, relying on private donations to fund operations. More than 207,000 volunteers, including 107,000 medical volunteers, support dedicated staff to meet patient needs. 

“Nearly two-thirds of our member clinics have had to cancel planned fundraisers because of the pandemic; but we are undeterred in our mission to ensure access for the medically underserved,” said Lamoureux. “Our network of care providers continues to provide life-saving services every day and our corporate and individual donors help us ensure no one is left without an option for quality, compassionate care.”

NAFC clinics provide ‘whole person’ care, not only providing basic access to medical care but also addressing social determinants of health and health disparities. In addition to emergent care and management of chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension, member clinics address issues like food insecurity, mental health, transportation and even Internet access. 

The full NAFC survey report can be found at 


About the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics 

The National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC) is the only nonprofit 501c(3) organization whose mission is solely focused on the issues and needs of the medically underserved throughout the nation and the more than 1,400 Free and Charitable Clinics and Pharmacies that serve them. The NAFC has earned the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. Founded in 2001 and headquartered near Washington, D.C., the NAFC is working to ensure that the medically underserved have access to affordable quality health care and strives to be a national voice promoting quality health care for all. For more information about the NAFC, please visit Follow the NAFC on Twitter at @NAFClinics and on Facebook at


*Online survey of 388 NAFC member respondents, administered late May – July 2020




Kerry Thompson
National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics