Healthcare reform has been one of the most divisive issues in Washington. But the lack of healthcare is also the common problem, which connects millions of Americans.
As poverty and unemployment increases, the problem only grows worse. Long lines at a free healthcare clinic in Los Angeles show there is a great need in the US.
Rose Brown, 63, has vision problems and her fair share of aches and pains, but what really hurts, she says, is thinking about where her country is headed.
“This is what it has come to and shame on America, the United States of America,” said Brown.
After working much of her life in education, Brown was recently laid off, and now waits, along with 5,000 other people, to see a doctor at a free medical clinic in Los Angeles.
The line wrapped around the Los Angeles Sports Arena, but it is just a fraction of the nearly 50 million Americans without health coverage. Nationwide, more than 16 percent of the population does not have health insurance. In California, the situation is worse with one in five people lacking medical coverage.
Events like the free clinic in Los Angeles put a face on the staggering state of healthcare in the United States.
“I think looking at this, you can see there is something terribly wrong with our healthcare system,” said Don Manelli, president of Care Now, the non-profit which organized the free clinic.
Thousands of medical volunteers provide everything from dental fillings to mammograms
trying to fill the void left by America’s broken health care system.
Dr. Tung Cheong has volunteered his services in some of the poorest countries in the world, but now sees the desperate need here at home.
“It’s the same thing. I don’t have to go abroad to do good work.Here they also need help,” said Cheong.
The affordability of healthcare has been one of the concerns expressed at street protests around the country.
“Until our education systems are dealt with, until access to healthcare and food and shelter are actually available to every citizen, we have no intention of stopping,” said Occupy Los Angeles organizer Kwazi Nkrumah.
At the free clinic, it is not just the most impoverished who are lining up for help. Among the crowd are people who have advanced degrees. Many people actually do have a job but are not offered insurance at work or just cannot afford the deductible. According to a recent report from the Kaiser Commission, three-quarters of the uninsured come from working families.
“Healthcare is a human right,” said Jenny Chung as she waited in line for medical help. “People should know that if something happens to them that they’re not going to go bankrupt,” Chung added.
Chung has an English degree and works as a data entry clerk. She blames Wall Street corruption and excessive military spending.
“We’re taking money away from people who need it like everyone who is in line over here,” Chung said.
Most families can’t wait for healthcare reform.
Kriss Bonilla is a cook at a family-owned restaurant, which does not offer health insurance. He has dealt with pain for years, even coughing up blood. Bonilla has few options to get expert attention.
“People can’t afford things. And I want to be around for my son and my little girl that is on the way, so I want to be around a little longer before anything else,” Bonilla said.
Despite being the world’s richest nation, nearly 45,000 Americans die yearly because they lack health insurance and can’t get good care
Rose Brown hopes the nation’s elites see these long lines and take notice.
“Do you really care? Those people in high places, that we, the smaller people are paying for you amenities,” said Brown.
Whether or not those in power hear her, Brown is hopeful that the recent trend of protests will help get the message across.
“I’m so happy that the masses are taking it to the streets,” said Brown.