PBS’ ‘NewsHour’ Profiles Free Health Clinic in Venice Beach
PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" last night reported on how the uninsured access health care by profiling the Venice Family Clinic, a free health clinic outside of Los Angeles that serves 17,000 patients annually -- the largest free clinic in the United States. Since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the clinic has seen an increase in the number of uninsured, as many of the area's workers lost their jobs due to a slowdown in tourism. "NewsHour" interviewed one Guatemalan immigrant with three children who lost her employer-based health coverage after she was laid off from her job at a hotel. While two of her children were born in the United States and qualify for Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, she and her oldest son must use the free clinic for care. "NewsHour" also interviewed an uninsured man who delayed seeking treatment for leg pain because he feared he could not afford the cost of care. He eventually "collapsed" and received treatment at a hospital for what was determined to be a pulmonary embolism -- at a cost of $14,000. The debt he owes the hospital, he said, is greater than his student loans. The patient is receiving free follow-up treatment and medication at the Venice Family Clinic.
At the same time that the number of patients seeking care at the clinic is increasing, the facility is also facing funding cutbacks, "NewsHour" reports. The Venice clinic has been receiving $8 million annually in private donations and $8 million each year from a "patchwork" of state and federal sources. As California faces a budget shortfall, it may cut funds to the clinic. Elizabeth Forer, the clinic's CEO, said, "At a time in which we're economically not stable, when families who are fighting to keep a job, or fighting to find a job, probably need health care, it's the worst time to cut this funding." Volunteer staffing and an extensive celebrity fundraising campaign have become crucial to the clinic. "NewsHour" reports that many experts cite free clinics as the solution to providing care to the estimated 40 million uninsured Americans. Forer, however, disagrees, and said, "We're here because there is no other way to solve this problem right now. We're a Band-Aid. We're not the solution" (Dentzer, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 2/11). A video segment from the report is available at pnm://184.108.40.206/220.127.116.11/CHL/veniceCHL020212.rm. Note: You must have RealPlayer Audio to view the video clip.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.