Health Care Delivered in Animal Stalls
It is the rural medical camp that turned Wendell Potter, former CIGNA spokesman, into an insurance whistleblower.
NPR reports on what appears to be a scene from a Third World nation every year. In Wise, Virginia at the county fairgrounds hundreds of desperate people lined up to receive free medical care in cleaned out animal stalls. They drove in from 16 states, NPR reports. They slept in cars, tents and pickup trucks hoping to be the first to be seen when the gate opened last Friday.
Otis Reece of Gate City, Va. was among them. He used to make a six-figure income working for an international industrial supply firm. Then an accident left him disabled. He arrived in a wheelchair to take advantage of dental, vision, and medical checks along with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren.
"Being on a fixed income, this is a fantastic situation to have things done we ordinarily would put off,” he tells NPR.
For the past decade during the last weekend in July, the Wise fairgrounds have been opened to become examining rooms, complete with x-rays, optometry equipment, dental chairs, and lamps, all courtesy of the 1,800 volunteers working for Remote Area Medical Expedition (RAM).
In all, 2,700 people are seen during the three-day event with just over half having no insurance at all, part of the 47 million uninsured in the U.S., a central priority of health care reform. 47 percent are considered underinsured after copay or gaps provided by Medicare, Medicaid and conventional insurance coverage.
Stan Brock, the founder of RAM says “There’s no doubt about it. There is a Third World right here in the United States. Here in the world’s richest country.” NPR has some pictures of the event on its Web site and you can listen to individual stories.
Dental problems are among the most common.
During the event nearly 4,000 teeth will be extracted. One four-year-old had a cavity in every tooth.
Dr. Terry Dickinson, who heads the RAM dental effort says, “The infection in the mouth certainly has been shown to have an effect on systemic diseases. So it’s really critical that these folks be able to get infected teeth out and infection treated in the mouth because it’s going to help them with their overall health.”
RAM organizers say this event costs about $250,000 to provide care that would normally total about $1.5 million. Eight more expeditions are planned in 2009 from Virginia to California, the next one scheduled for Inglewood, California August 11-18.
RAM is located in Knoxville, Tennessee where donations from the public help keep the organization going. #