Free Clinic Patients’ Perceptions and Barriers to Applying for Health Insurance After Implementation of the Affordable Care Act

Amy J. Kennedy, Veli Bakalov, Laura Reyes-Uribe, Caroline Kensler, Sharon E. Connor, Maggie Benson, Thuy Bui, Thomas R. Radomski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many Americans remain uninsured and receive care in free clinics. It is unknown what free clinic attendees in Pennsylvania know about health insurance expansion or what they perceive as barriers in enrolling in health insurance. The objective of this study was to assess the perceptions and experiences of free clinic patients from southwestern Pennsylvania when applying for health insurance after implementation of the ACA. We designed and implemented a survey of patients at three free clinics within Allegheny County, Pennsylvania from September 2016 to February 2017. Our survey included 22-items, 7 sociodemographic questions and 15 questions regarding the patient’s health status and their perspectives related to obtaining health insurance. Data was obtained from 203 patient surveys; 110 (55.3%) of the respondents were men and 99 (48.8%) were African American. There were 48 respondents (24.1%) who did not report any income at the time of the study, and of those that did report an income, 92 (46.2%) respondents reported an income below 133% of the federal poverty level. The main barriers patients faced when applying for health insurance were: (1) lack of knowledge about health insurance (n = 127, 58.1%), (2) cost of health coverage (n = 85, 41.9%), (3) lack of resources (n = 83, 40.4%), and (4) lack of enrollment documentation (n = 43, 23.8%). Significant work is needed to better educate patients about their eligibility and options for health insurance. Free clinics can play a key role in eliminating barriers to health insurance enrollment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)492-500
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Community Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Affordable Care Act
  • Barriers
  • Free clinics
  • Medicaid expansion
  • Uninsured population

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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