The dentists’ nurse told me that the majority of their cases are pulling teeth. In other words, people are not getting preventive care, just coming in when they are in pain. A young mother with one child in a stroller and five more at home was there with her husband who does not have a job or insurance. Her school bus driver job covers only her and if they wanted to cover the whole family it would be $1000 they don’t have.
One of the nurses I met there was from Canada, though she works in the US, and laughed about the notion that socialized medicine was the bugaboo it has been made out to be. She and some of the other nurses have treated the Mountain Dew kids in Appalachia and are totally behind a real reform of the medical system here. Of course they are; they see people at their most vulnerable, the ones who have no insurance, the ones who fell through the cracks, the children who may not get the nutrition they need to form a great brain because they are dirt poor, the out of work and no insurance people like me. I could find myself there but for the grace of God and a mom with a checkbook.
I have no doubt that free clinics like this one are seeing more and more people these days and that is a scary proposition. It had the feeling of a M*A*S*H unit. One of the volunteers said they would treat about 480 people today and half again as many tomorrow because of church and the doctors’ schedules. This was a small town. And they will have treated about 700 people in 2 days. Extrapolated out, how many people in the country are in need of basic health care and are not getting any?