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Federal Way clinic welcomes uninsured immigrants
The local immigrant population illustrates the demand for affordable and accessible health care.
Cornerstone Medical Services hosts a free clinic in Federal Way for low-income residents who cannot afford insurance. The clinic is open to all ethnicities, but 90 percent of clients come from the Korean community. An estimated 39 percent of Korean immigrants lack health insurance, said Cornerstone founder Dr. Jai Byeon.
At the end of 2011, the total number of Washington residents without health coverage was expected to reach 1 million — or 14.5 percent of the state's immigrant-rich population. Legal immigrants account for an estimated one-third of the uninsured.
In Washington, hospitals and health care providers lose $1 billion a year as a result of caring for people without coverage, according to the state insurance commissioner's office. These costs are recouped through higher premiums.
When implemented in 2014, the controversial Affordable Care Act is expected to reduce the number of uninsured Washingtonians to 6 percent, the commissioner reports.
Last year, Cornerstone Medical Services saw about 1,300 patients. Dr. Byeon expects the Affordable Care Act — colloquially known as Obamacare — to shift the demographics of his clientele once health insurance becomes mandatory.
"The patient population may be changed. We will see more homeless people and new immigrants," he said, noting the need for coverage in the Hispanic and Russian communities. "There are so many needy people."
As demand for service grows, Cornerstone will establish more strict rules for eligibility. For now, the Federal Way clinic accepts anyone who needs help.
Nearly 70 patients visit Cornerstone the first and third Saturday of every month. The clinic conducts basic health exams and blood tests, with assistance from a roster of about 45 volunteers. Providing care are seven medical doctors, two naturopathic doctors, two chiropractors and two acupuncturists.
Dr. Byeon founded Cornerstone in 2008 in Federal Way before moving the operation to Renton. In June 2012, the free clinic relocated to a 900-square-foot office on South 333rd Street in Federal Way.
The operation depends mostly on personal donations, which are tax-deductible. Clinic organizers recently applied for a $40,000 grant from the City of Federal Way. Meanwhile, sponsors like Paclab provide free blood tests for the clinic, which also seeks X-ray services and more volunteer specialists.
• Cornerstone Medical Services is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. the first and third Saturday of the month at theNorthmark Building, 200 S. 333rd St. (off 1st Avenue South), Federal Way. Visit www.cmsclinic.org.