August 13th, 2009
11:13 AM ET

Thousands line up for promise of free health care

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/08/12/health.care.cardin/art.cardin.gi.jpg caption="Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, has said he won't vote for a health care bill that raises the deficit."]
Jennifer Steinhauer
New York Times

They came for new teeth mostly, but also for blood pressure checks, mammograms, immunizations and acupuncture for pain. Neighboring South Los Angeles is a place where health care is scarce, and so when it was offered nearby, word got around.

For the second day in a row, thousands of people lined up on Wednesday — starting after midnight and snaking into the early hours — for free dental, medical and vision services, courtesy of a nonprofit group that more typically provides mobile health care for the rural poor.

Like a giant MASH unit, the floor of the Forum, the arena where Madonna once played four sold-out shows, housed aisle upon aisle of dental chairs, where drilling, cleaning and extracting took place in the open. A few cushions were duct-taped to a folding table in a coat closet, an examining room where Dr. Eugene Taw, a volunteer, saw patients.

When Remote Area Medical, the Tennessee-based organization running the event, decided to try its hand at large urban medical services, its principals thought Los Angeles would be a good place to start. But they were far from prepared for the outpouring of need. Set up for eight days of care, the group was already overwhelmed on the first day after allowing 1,500 people through the door, nearly 500 of whom had still not been served by day’s end and had to return in the wee hours Wednesday morning.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Health Care
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Ruby Coria LA., CA.

    If they could keep it going all year, it would be full year around. If they don't get the basic care now, you'll see them in the emergency room real soon, & you'll pay for it, or the hospitals will go broke & there will be no care for those in the so call ~ghettos.

    August 13, 2009 at 5:06 pm |
  2. joe

    Does anyone really think this is free health care – this is socialized medicine, not national healthcare and once we open the door to the government to start to make decisions, they will continually alter their programs until they control it. Soon Mr. Obama will have a health care Czar, like all the other Czar's he is creating – why were these points not addressed in this town hall:

    • Page 30, line 23 — There will be a government committee that decides what treatments you get.
    • Page 50, line 152 — Health care will be provided to all non US citizens, illegal or otherwise.
    • Page 59, lines 21-24 — Government will have direct access to bank accounts for electronic funds transfer.
    • Page 110, lines 13-18 — An excise tax (will be levied) on all goods from companies not offering government health care.
    • Page 239, lines 14-24 — Government will reduce physician services for Medicaid.
    • Page 304, lines 17-19 — Government does not have to protect your private information.
    • Page 427, lines 15-24 — Government mandates programs for orders for end of life.
    • Page 429, lines 10-12 — "Advance care consultation" may include an order for end of life plans.
    • Page 438, Section 1236 — The government will develop a patient decision making aid program that you and your Doctor will use.
    • Page 660-671 — "Doctors in Residency" – The government will tell you where your residency will be.

    Do you really want the government to make the decisions for you – to tell your doctor when they should tell you to give up fighting a chronic disease? Really?

    August 13, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  3. Kim St Thomas ON

    Americans at large need to get a clue....when you have 1000s of people showing up and waiting hours and days to receive routine medical care for free, is this not a massive indication that universal health care is needed for all Americans? I am sure though that soon we will hear from right wing pundits telling us how most of these people in need are illegals or dead beats and that it was a waste of time and money to treat them at all. Wake up America and spend some of that money you normally spend on guns, tanks, and bombs, on taking care of your own!

    August 13, 2009 at 1:59 pm |
  4. S. Sanyal MD MBA FACC

    Maybe that is one way to go

    Further suggestions to try to make local communities self sufficient and accountable for their health h care would be

    1. Well maybe give primary doctors a tax break per uninsured patient they see in the clinic, or in an organized event.

    2. Rope in Walmart, local drug companies to distribute subsidized medications

    3. Encourage Quest or LAbCore to run stat common labs- these really do not cost much and table top instant analyzers are available.

    3 Expand Medicaid temporarily, for Hospital costs of the uninsured.

    3. Put more funds in to the VA system so they can expand some coverage to the local uninsured.

    4. Help organize local doctor and local hospital based free health clinics and allow providers to show it as donations to charity.

    5. Please believe in the people who fights in the trenches day to day.

    6. Do not just work with the defunct AMA – get the grassroots party worker and volunteers to work with local physician groups, medical colleges to provide local free care- that is what people do during times of trouble we stand together and united and make sacrifice for the society. Encourage that true human spirit – that is called true leadership. We have to learn to believe not to just fight

    Help bring Democracy back to where it belongs – to the community and the people.


    August 13, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  5. Melissa

    Just shows how badly National Health Care is needed.

    August 13, 2009 at 11:47 am |
  6. kevin korstad

    I can't believe we have the cart before the horse!!! We need jobs and our housing market is still in the dumps. All you people out the can't you live on 7 million a year instead of 13 million a year. Just think how many jobs would open up. We can't pay for health ins. until we have our jobs BACK!! Beside the unemployment. Just think how this recession is hurting the self employed that can't even claim unemployment ins. The rich are just to rich. I don't even understand why a person would need over 1 million in income a year. That would be 20 years worth of pay for me.

    August 13, 2009 at 11:28 am |