Group offers free health care for the uninsured
Patients waited in line for days at a free health care clinic in California from Remote Area Medical, a global, all-volunteer non-profit which provides free medical care to the uninsured.
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As the country debates health care reform plans, Stan Brock is getting a first hand look at the people who stand to be affected by these plans: people without any health insurance at all. Mr. Brock is the volunteer CEO and founder of Remote Area Medical(RAM), a global, all-volunteer non-profit which provides free medical care to the uninsured.
While they normally set up their fully-equipped health care trailers in rural parts of the United States, Mexico and South America, recently they set up camp in Los Angeles. It was the start of an eight-day stint that is the group's first foray into a major urban setting, at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
Some people had been waiting in line overnight: Rachel Wallace spent $75 to get down to L.A. from San Francisco for dental work at the clinics.
"If I have a root canal and four fillings and one X-ray done, I have saved at least $1,000."
She had been waiting in line for about six hours at the time she was interviewed, and would eventually wait several days for the procedures to be performed for free.
"I don't have insurance. Right now, I don't have work -- I was laid off a few months ago. With no money to pay for any kind of health insurance, let alone dental, to offer to do it for free is worth waiting in line for," says Wallace.
Orange County resident, 49-year-old Jimmie Peters, came down both to volunteer and to get care. He, too, was there for dental work, as well as having a prescription updated for corrective eyewear. He volunteered to help set up the clinic on earlier in the week and witnessed the number of people that were turned away.
"It was well over 1,000 people."
The initial idea for RAM came when CEO Stan Brock was staying in South America.
"I was actually living in the upper Amazon with a tribe of native Americans called the Wapashanas. I was badly injured by a wild horse, and while I was lying under that wild horse, all smashed up, one of the Indians said, "well, the nearest doctor is 26 days on foot from here." It was that time I got the inspiration to form Remote Area Medical, RAM.
"And here we are in Los Angeles; although we still do this in the upper Amazon and Africa and places like that. 64% of all the work we do is here in the United States, we've been doing this for years. The health care business that we're all hearing about is not a recent phenomenon: it's been like this forever and ever. Here in the United States, this is our 576th operation. And here we are in Los Angeles. The first day, I brought in 1500 patients."
Brock says that one of the biggest impediments to the program in the U.S., and especially at the California location, is the law that prohibits doctors licensed in other states from practicing medicine in another state. This accounts for the vast numbers of people they had to turn away.
Given his past experience in the U.K., Brock offers a unique take on healthcare reform. "I am a supporter of healthcare reform to the extent of how we do it. If you go back to 1944, when I was in Britain during the height of World War II, the coalition bi-partisan government under Winston Churchill mandated healthcare for everybody. There were 49.7 million people in Britain at that time.
"You've got the same number of people without access to healthare in the United States. At this time, 66 years later, in the world's richest country, can't everybody, on both sides of the aisle of the governemnt agree to some type of care that is going to take care of those 49 million people?"
Brock offers this, in closing: "I think it is very, very sad that people like those you have just interviewed have got to endure...for hours and hours and hours for something that is a right in (Britain), and should be everywhere."
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