Free LA health clinic ends today

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Hundreds of people plan to visit the Los Angeles Sports Arena as a free temporary medical clinic wraps up Sunday. For several days, medical workers have offered uninsured patients dental work, vision care, mammograms, acupuncture and much more. One patient shared her experience.

Rose Johnson Brown, 62, of L.A. didn’t mind that I snapped pictures of her in the dental chair. Her focus was on orthodontist Dr. Benjamin Woo, who was about to work on her teeth.

“Just make sure you’re not going to hurt me please,” Brown said. “OK, I’ll try,” Woo responded.

About 5,000 people — most uninsured, but some underinsured like Johnson — spent days getting medical care they wouldn’t have received if they’d had to pay out of their pockets.

Brown had worked 17 years for an insurance company. She says her employer laid her off before she could retire. She entered a basic health plan but it barely paid for any dental work.

Frustrated, she checked out another insurance program for seniors. “And now I learned that now that they don’t even have dental care," Brown said. "So what are we going to do? We worked hard. We paid our money and you told us this was available to us and then all of a sudden when it becomes out turn, oh it’s too many of you guys. I don’t want to hear that.”

Some patients spent hours waiting their turn for care. But many I spoke with didn’t seem to mind. They were more concerned about finding followup treatment after they left the arena.

Organizers said they worked to refer patients to local clinics that would see them at little to no cost. That’ll help people like Johnson, who says she’ll continue to try and make ends meet.

She offered a few words to lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are wrangling over President Barack Obama’s health care reform plan. “Look at how we’re hurting. Stop that dadgum fighting. Why don’t we cut all you guys’ amenities and benefits. Then you’ll see how we’re feeling.”

With that, Brown left the dental area to make her way to another section of the arena. The Southland non-profit CareNow organized the free health care clinic.

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