LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

BOISE -- With enrollment now open for Idaho's health insurance exchange, new questions are surfacing regarding the people in our state who are uninsured.

KTVB is taking a closer look at the future of the non-profit agencies that currently take care of those patients for free.

An estimated 200,000 Idahoans are currently living without health insurance.

While the exchange may help some of them get coverage, free community clinics say they will still be needed.

Steven Reames directs the Garden City Community Clinic.

For more than a decade, volunteers there have been providing medical help free of charge.

We are here for people who live off $1,000 a month trying to raise a family, or people who just can't scrape enough money to get insurance, said Reames.

So now that Idaho's insurance exchange is open, offering federal subsidies for those needing financial help, will free clinics still be needed?

Reames says absolutely.

We're going to see a lot more people during the year but fewer times, said Reames.

He says while some of their patients will find affordable coverage on the exchange, others will not.

Reames tells us about half the people their clinic sees, don't make enough to qualify for financial help, so insurance may still not be affordable.

In Idaho, Medicaid expansion hasn't been passed, so anyone under 100 percent of the poverty line they have no new insurance options available, said Reames.

Reames predicts they will also see more patients in between jobs, or in between insurance coverage, also with those living here illegally.

And there are some services they will still offer for free that aren't covered by some of the base level plans on the exchange.

One of the big holes we see is dental, said Reames.

Reames says the faces they see may change, and their role may change as well, but there will still be many Idahoans stuck without insurance and with a need for medical help.

And their clinic will be open as long as that need continues.

There's some of that identity crisis where you say, why do we really exist? Are we truly here as a patch for a problem and once it gets fixed we move on to another issue, said Reames.

Reames says they are also offering financial literacy classes to help their patients manage their budgets and their health care costs.

He says there is a concern that once uninsured patients get coverage on the exchange, there will be more of a demand for doctors throughout the state.

Read or Share this story: http://www.ktvb.com/story/news/local/2014/07/02/12009455/