WASHINGTON — With a wounded economy and high unemployment, more than 1,000 people came to a one-day free health clinic in the nation's capital Wednesday to get the basic care they can't afford because they have no insurance.
More than three-quarters of those attending don't have insurance because they are recently unemployed, work for small businesses, or must work multiple part-time jobs with no insurance, said the event's medical director, Bobby Kapur. According to the National Association of Free Clinics, about 83 percent of the patients who go to free clinics are employed but don't have health insurance.
"They told me I had to be blind or have children to get Medicaid or anything," said Joyce Albury, 54, Upper Marlboro, Md.
After being laid off from her full-time job, Albury became an adjunct professor at a local community college, where she was not offered insurance. Before her husband lost his job too, she was denied coverage under his plan because her vertigo qualified as a pre-existing condition.
Albury hasn't had insurance for nine years. She got her first EKG and cholesterol tests Wednesday at the clinic.
"I wasn't able to sleep last night because I didn't know what they would find," Albury said.
A team of about 1,000 volunteer doctors, nurses, and everyday folks made it a priority to ease the anxiety faced by patients like Albury in addition to providing a range of primary medical care.
Patients at the clinic are examined by physicians and advanced practice nurses and then could be referred to others for specialized treatment, such as eye exams. Before they leave, patients are given further information about low cost or free care in the area.
Event organizer and executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics Nicole Lamoureux said, "It's a very humbling experience to come to a convention to get what we consider basic care."