Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

August 10, 2009


Coburn Dukehart, NPR - some of what I saw at the county fairgrounds in Wise, Va., last month left me wordless.

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.


Blogger BRT3 said...

For more information on the RAM•LA clinic, please visit:

August 10, 2009 6:44 PM  
Anonymous PJ said...

They came from 16 states...yearlong waits...and all happening in the richest country that has ever been on the face of the earth. Surely Jesus weeps?

Goodness bless and keep the organizers and providers! (I was glad to see tv coverage of the LA event last night.)

August 13, 2009 10:41 AM  

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