Frequently Asked Questions

What is a free clinic?

The State of Iowa provides a definition of free clinic: “Free Clinic” means a facility, other than a hospital or health care provider’s office which is exempt from taxation under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and which has as its sole purpose the provision of health care services without charge to individuals who are otherwise unable to pay for the services. (Source: IA Code: 135.24)

Most of the free clinics in Iowa are volunteer-based and provide services out of a church or community center, at no cost to patients.

Why free clinics?

Charity care is cornerstone to efforts addressing the healthcare needs of Iowa's most vulnerable populations. Community leaders identify the need and initiate grass-roots efforts to serve the underserved through free medical clinics.

How can I begin a free clinic in my community?

If you believe this is an unmet need in your community, identify champions and a site willing to take on the initiative then contact us. Champions should be willing to fill the Volunteer roles of Medical Director and Clinic Manager (FCI provides template job descriptions for these positions). Site should be willing to provide space and storage for clinic operations (FCI provides lease agreement templates).

What about malpractice insurance?

We are fortunate in the State of Iowa to have an established program which offers indemnification to free clinics and its volunteer health care providers. Learn more about the Volunteer Health Care Provider Program.

How can it be free?

  • Physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals volunteer their time to provide quality medical services.
  • Lay volunteers handle patient check-in, clerical assistance, site maintenance and other tasks to insure an efficient operation.
  • Use of Church and Community Center space allows the clinics to operate with little or no rental and utility costs.
  • Generous individuals, businesses and organizations provide contributions of cash, supplies, pharmaceuticals and equipment.
  • No-cost membership with FCI provides operational and procedural tools as well as needed equipment, technology and education.

Considering the Affordable Care Act (ACA) offerings, are free clinics enabling people to avoid pursuing healthcare coverage?

No, free clinics serve as a gateway to healthcare coverage and health home access. The data supports our success in transitioning patients toward healthcare coverage programs, as patient visits have declined slightly post-ACA but volunteerism has increased, due in large part to the enhanced services free clinics provide in actively educating and connecting patients to eligibility, application and enrollment assistance.

With the ACA, who still uses the free clinic?

  • Those that are in between coverage due to job transitions, relocation, etc
  • Those who are eligible but aren't yet enrolled and seek care as well as eligibility, application and/or enrollment assistance
  • Those who are eligible and enrolled but have no available access due to provider shortages, transportation issues, limited childcare options, time off work considerations, etc
  • Those who are eligible and enrolled but find premiums with additional out-of-pocket expenses such as co-pays, deductibles and items not included in their plan, unaffordable
  • Those who are indigent and homeless who do not access traditional healthcare delivery systems
  • Those who are undocumented and unauthorized and do not qualify for any coverage options


  • Nodaway Valley Free Medical Clinic: Clarinda

    Nodaway Valley Free Medical Clinic: Clarinda

  • Grace United Methodist Church Free Clinic: Des Moines

    Grace United Methodist Church Free Clinic: Des Moines

  • Iowa City Free Medical Clinic: Iowa City

    Iowa City Free Medical Clinic: Iowa City