For two-and-a-half days, about 800 doctors, nurses, dentists and optometrists treated 2,700 uninsured and underinsured people, most from Appalachia. No one was asked for an insurance card. There were no co-pays. And there were no bills.
A Tennessee-based group called Remote Area Medical, or RAM, arranged the volunteer help, brought in donated equipment and supplies and paid for everything else. . .
What: Health care providers saw 2,715 patients and performed 2,671 medical exams, 1,088 eye tests and 1,850 dental exams. They extracted 3,857 teeth and put in 1,628 fillings.
Who: Patients came from 16 states; 30 percent were repeat patients.
Of the patients, 51 percent are uninsured, 40.3 percent are on Medicaid or Medicare, and just 7.3 percent have employer or private insurance. Fewer than 1 percent of patients have dental or vision insurance.
Twenty-six percent of the people are employed, 40.6 are unemployed, 4.7 percent are retired and 4.8 percent are children.
Cost: The organizers paid about $250,000 out of pocket to run the event, and they provided an estimated $1.5 million worth of care. . .
Close to 4,000 teeth ended up in buckets. Some 20-year-olds had every tooth pulled. A 4-year-old had every tooth filled. Out of the hundreds treated, only 11 had dental insurance.
I arrived home from Virginia with a badly infected finger. It was swollen, red and painful. So I drove to the doctor, presented my insurance card and wrote a check for $15 for the co-pay. My doctor took a scalpel to the infection and sent me to the pharmacy for antibiotics. All that took an hour. . .
I have never felt so privileged to have a good job and good insurance and easy access to care without long drives and long nights and a yearlong wait.
The next RAM free clinic begins Tuesday in the Forum, the former basketball arena outside Los Angeles. Doctors, dentists and optometrists will work 12 hours a day for eight days. Organizers expect to treat 10,000 people.