Hundreds get free health care in South LA

Care Harbor's free medical clinic at the L.A. Sports Arena.  Photo credit:  Danielle Tarasuik

Care Harbor’s free medical clinic at the L.A. Sports Arena. Photo credit: Danielle Tarasuik

Hundreds of people lined up Thursday morning to receive free dental care, physicals, and eye exams Care Harbor L.A.’s annual free health clinic. This is Care Harbor’s fifth year organizing a free health clinic, but this year is different. It’s the first time the Affordable Care Act is available to the public. On one side of the LA Memorial Sports arena in South Los Angeles where the event was held, are booths with information on the Affordable Care Act and other health insurance options. People can also start the process of signing up for health insurance. Care Harbor LA’s free health clinic is a four day event and will end on Sunday. Event officials expect that each day will be packed with at least one-thousand people.
Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News featuring patients at the clinic:

Free health care clinic in South LA attracts thousands

imageListen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

About 4,800 people are expected to pass through the LA Sports Arena this weekend to get health care for free. This is the fourth year that Care Harbor has held its free health clinic there. Doctors from around LA are volunteering their time to see patients who otherwise couldn’t pay for medical attention.

Two of the most popular stops at Care Harbor are the ones that often don’t get covered by insurers: the vision and dental care stations. “It went alright, they didn’t bring the crown machine, they say they’re only doing crowns on the front teeth and my crown is for my first molar, so they couldn’t put no crown on my tooth,” said Jamon Potts. He waited almost six hours to get a wristband to come to today’s clinic. Even though he didn’t get what he came for, he said it was still worth it.

Patient Stephanie Johnson rearranged her schedule to get to the clinic today. She agrees. “I really like this. I really think it’s a good thing that they’re doing, because there’s a lot of us that can’t get no medicare or health plan. I really think they’re doing a good job. Matter of fact, if it is long, I’m not even saying it’s long because I appreciate the time they take. I’m just sitting here enjoying it.”

With election season approaching, Care Harbor is using this year’s clinic to spread the word about the Affordable Care Act, letting patients know that by 2014 they can expect to have access to healthcare.
Even at today’s event, where healthcare insurance is major topic, opinions on the issue are split.

Volunteer Dentist Younes Safa said, “I’m not for universal healthcare, I think primarily the healthcare issue is a job issue. If you can get people jobs then they can get their own insurance to their liking then that’s the way to go.”

Potts, who lost his healthcare when he resigned from his job, disagrees, “Everyone should have healthcare for free, you know what I mean, really, truthfully.”

Organizers expect to treat about 1,000 more patients this year than they saw last year, but that is still only a fraction of the estimated two-million people living without health insurance in Los Angeles.