Organizers see free clinic as opportunity to educate patients on health reform

care harbor crowd

José Martinez/KPCC

Patients were lined up well before the Care Harbor clinic's doors opened at 7 a.m. on Thursday morning.

Free medical, dental and vision care aren't the only things patients are receiving at the four-day Care Harbor clinic at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

They'll also be getting an education about what the Affordable Care Act has in store for them.

Howard Kahn is the boss at L.A. Care, the non-profit group that works to provide medical care to the uninsured in Los Angeles. The organization teamed up with Care Harbor to put on the clinic at the Sports Arena, which will provide health care for 4,800 patients through Sunday.

Kahn's taking this year's clinic as an opportunity to help people help themselves.

"Health care reform is around the corner," he said on Monday. "And this is a chance to let these folks know – many of whom have never had coverage before – that there's something coming, and here's what they need to do in order to get coverage come 18 months from now, in the beginning of 2014."

That "something coming" refers to, in part, a provision of the Affordable Care Act that takes effect on the first day of 2014 that will expand Medicaid to cover Americans younger than 65 whose income meets eligibility requirements.

People like Henry Ramos, 20, who lives downtown, are Kahn's target audience. While waiting in line for dental work on the Care Harbor clinic's first day, Ramos said he isn't eligible anymore for the state's Medicaid program, MediCal – and he's frustrated with the Affordable Care Act.

"Honestly, I think it's bull," he said. "It's not working out at all." He said the legislation certainly wasn't helping his family, who's been without health care for a long time now.

His experience with Medi-Cal wasn't great, either – "hectic," he called it – and he said it was hard to see good doctors. But that was better than no doctors, and Ramos is more satisfied with the free care at Care Harbor than he is with health care reform.

"I think it can only get worse from there," he said.

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