Over the weekend, thousands of Texans attended what is being called the “largest free clinic ever held in the United States” to get health care they otherwise could not afford. ABC-13, a local Houston station, reported that the event showed that there is an “epidemic” of people without proper health coverage in Texas:
It’s an epidemic here in Texas and Harris County — people without health insurance. On Saturday, the uninsured lined up to get their needs met.
More than 2,000 people came to Reliant Center to see doctors for free. Many of the people we talked to can’t afford health insurance, especially in the rough economy. Some say it shows the need for health care reform.
Numerous patients described their experience with the broken U.S. health care system to ABC-13:
“My foot was turned upside down,” said patient Lillian Beverly. Beverly has had trouble walking since she took a bad fall three months ago. “I really don’t have the money to keep going to doctors and doctors,” she said.
Kevin Braggs is worried about his diabetes. “I’ve been without insurance for six months,” said Braggs.
And Vicki Robinson wants to keep her son’s asthma under control, but she says it’s difficult. “My husband’s lost his job. We’ve gone through our savings,” said Robinson.
And nine-year-old Kempton knows it. “We can’t afford medicine,” he said.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, one of the physicians who worked at the clinic this weekend, compared what he saw there to the post-Katrina crisis:
DR. OZ: We had no idea the overwhelming response we would have, the cries for help from the city of Houston and the state of Texas. … This is the largest health mobilization in Houston since Katrina. So a national disaster which brought out this kind of response is now paralleled by a national disaster, because this is just an average day in Houston, and there are thousands of people who need help.
Although this free clinic was especially needed in Texas, which currently has the largest uninsured population in the country, there have been similar events all over the country.
Last month, more than 1,300 patients showed up during a single weekend at a free dental clinic held in Parkersburg, West Virginia. A few days later, nearly 1500 people attended every day of an eight-day free clinic Remote Area Medical set up in Los Angeles. Former Cigna insurance executive and industry whistleblower Wendell Potter credits his 2007 visit to a Remote Area Medical clinic as opening his eyes to the health care crisis in the United States, and says it was instrumental in causing him to leave the industry and join the fight for universal health care.