The Affordable Care Act, the most sweeping health care program created in a half century, is expected to extend coverage to 25 million Americans over the next decade, according to the most recent government estimates. But that will still leave a projected 31 million people without insurance by 2023. Those left out include undocumented workers and poor people living in the 21 states, such as Virginia, that have so far declined to expand Medicaid under the statute, commonly called Obamacare.
“The law will cut the number of the uninsured in half,” said Matthew Buettgens of the Urban Institute. “This is an important development, but it certainly isn’t the definition of universal.”
As a result, while hospitals and other providers gear up to handle an influx of Americans who will be newly insured as of Jan. 1, many of the nation’s 1,000 free clinics, which cater to the uninsured and are financed mostly by private donations, are redoubling efforts to help those bypassed by the law. The trend shows both the limits of the law and the way it is affecting nearly every corner of the health-care system, sometimes in little-noticed ways.