Thousands Of LA’s Uninsured Seek Care At Free Medical Clinic
At 6:30 a.m. on a foggy Saturday morning, nearly a hundred people already waited in line at L.A. Sports Center.
But they didn’t come for exercise.
More than two thousand people came for the first two days to take advantage of free healthcare during a four-day medical clinic held by nonprofit CareNowLA.
Most of them don’t have medical insurance. Dental and vision care are the most needed treatments.
Gibson hasn’t had medical insurance for 15 years. When he gets sick, he has to go to a free clinic or hospital where he waits 10 or 12 hours.
“Sometimes you can be there 24 hours before you can get an assistant to help,” he said.
Some don’t have insurance because they can’t afford it. Dorian Ledesma, 40, has a family and three children and has been living without insurance for the past five and a half years.
“It’s either eat or pay insurance. You get hungry, you have to eat,” he said. “It’s difficult.”
Ledesma is completing an associate science degree at L.A. Trade Tech College. He said he had to go back to school after he got laid off four years ago.
He came to the free clinic event to replace some of his fillings and see some doctors.
“Last time I went to the dentist, I couldn’t get the work I needed because I don’t have insurance,” he said.
Nearly two million Californians lost their health insurance between 2008 and 2009 thanks to a deep recession and mass layoffs, according to UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
California is among the top 10 states with highest rate of uninsured in 2010. Census data show 19.4 percent of Californians, or 7.2 million, were not covered by insurance in 2010.
Rimrio Puentes, 64, a retired man, is lucky enough to have medical insurance, but it doesn’t cover dental or eyes. He came for reading glasses, problems with his gums, and teeth cleaning. He has needed these services for three months.
“When I wake up in the morning, and I bite something, all my gums hurt,” he said.
Ron Cunninghim, 58, a Marine veteran from Ladera Heights, got laid off almost a year ago. For eight months, he needs dental care that the VA Hospital doesn’t cover.
“I don’t have no toothache or anything, just precautionary measures,” he said. “I need a band for the front of my mouth. I don’t like that chip in my tooth.”
A total number of 49.9 million people in the country didn’t have health insurance in 2010, making 16.3 percent of the population, according to U.S. Census Bureau.
The free clinic event is the first of its kind organized by CareNow. It is expected to receive 4,500 patients by the end of the fourth day.
“We’re hoping to take it nationally because we know the need is there. People need it all over the place,” said Lindsay Portnuff, outreach director of CareNow.
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