Healthcare Reforms Will Not Mean the End of ‘Free Clinics’ Yet

Every year there is a huge free health clinic staged at the L.A. sports arena. So last Thursday, close on 4,900 people came along for free treatment but they got free advice around the new health reforms coming into effect in 2014, at the same time.

As they had their lungs and eyes tested they were registered into a free health coverage program in order to prepare them for the so-called Obamacare reforms, under which many of them will be eligible for in going healthcare.

County health workers began the long slow process of enrolling and educating many in the ways of the new coverage. The chief executive at L.A. Care Health Plan, that sponsors this annual clinic, said the advice was just as important as the easing their swollen feet. “We need to let people know about the coverage.” Most of the nearly 500 patients attending the clinic will be able to get the health insurance when the new laws kick in. So making people aware of their new entitlements is going to play a big part in their future healthier lives.

Some of the patients are currently eligible for a program called , ‘Healthy Way L.A.’, which offers free health insurance for particular eligible county residents. This local program will become a link into the new healthcare reforms because those eligible will automatically be eligible for ‘Medi-Cal’ in ‘14. Still other residents will be able to get subsidies to buy healthcare in the state’s health insurance marketplace, the ‘California Health Benefit Exchange’.

One 59 year old county resident tells a typical tale. He asks the medics at the fair to help with his ‘shortness of breath’, sleep apnoea, and heart problems. He no longer goes to the doctor but just keeps taking the last prescribed medication.

The medic treating him needed to refer him to a clinic for more detailed testing but did not have a named doctor who was following the patients progress. Regular check-ups were what was really needed as is the case so often.

Another uninsured resident at just 50 also says she can no longer afford to visit a doctor, saying, “If you don’t have a job, you don’t have insurance,” she said. “If you don’t have insurance, you’re lost. I need all of these — cardiology, a chiropractor and dermatology“. She went on to say resignedly,

“Years of no health care takes a toll, especially when you start getting old.”

The annual free clinic runs for 4 days and is staffed entirely by volunteers. They offer treatment and advice on all manner of ailments from teeth to toes as well as connecting them to county and local health centers for on-going care if necessary. The demand for such free health fairs will not disappear overnight come the new regulations. It will probably gradually diminish but only as quickly as people take up the new provision with the help of the volunteers.

Claire Al-Aufi

Claire Al-Aufi is a contributing author for Hive Health Media who provides updates on health and fitness news.

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