Free Medical Clinic Has Been A Godsend
December 23, 2002
If you have been reading my columns on Commonvoice.com this year, then you are bound to know my cynical views regarding the healthcare system in America. The United States may be able to boast about having the best doctors and hospitals in the world, but access to healthcare for millions of Americans is denied because they simply cannot afford to pay the rising costs of insurance and medical-related expenditures.
My wife, Christine, and I know firsthand the travails of having no health insurance. When I lost my job in the Spring 2001, I could not afford to continue my healthcare coverage under COBRA because it was way too expensive. Then, when my wife went back to work while I was finishing my Masterís Degree last year, she was promised by her employer that she would be able to begin receiving health insurance in February 2002. As I detailed in an article entitled She Deserves The Money, that never happened.
In the meantime, both Christine and I had to go to the doctorís office this year for various illnesses. Christine got sinusitis and needed to see a doctor about panic attacks and depression while I had bronchitis and broke my left wrist in an accident in my front yard. Since we did not have health insurance or a family doctor, my wife and I went to the Mary Black Urgent Care Clinic on the west side of Spartanburg to take care of these medical problems. I explained the circumstances and frustrations surrounding these doctor visits in my article Uninsured Healthcare Hell.
While the nurses and doctors who work at Mary Black Urgent Care were very professional and courteous, they certainly were not hesitant to quickly administer the bill to us. Plus, we had to pay full price at the pharmacy for the drugs the doctor prescribed for us (My wifeís Paxil prescription alone cost $90 a month!).
In all fairness, though, the doctor was kind enough to reduce our bill by about 10% since we did not have insurance and gave us some free samples of medications to help defray our out-of-pocket expenses. But that still was a lot of money to shell out for us since I did not have a job and my wifeís income was just barely paying our other bills. In all, we paid in excess of $2000 in the first half of this year on our health care needs. To this day, I still do not know how we were able to pay off those healthcare bills!
When I went back to work this summer, I began looking at ways my family could cut costs in our budget. Obviously, one very glaring area was with healthcare expenses. I had heard about free health clinics in other cities and began searching for one in the Spartanburg area. When my wife had another health need arise in the Fall, I decided it was time to go to the local free health clinic for assistance.
Thankfully, we were able to find St. Lukeís Free Medical Clinic in downtown Spartanburg next to First Baptist Church. We filled out all the necessary paperwork and were able to schedule an appointment for my wife to see a doctor within a week. It really wasnít much more difficult than a typical doctorís visit in terms of paperwork and waiting. As you might expect, the free clinic is quite busy, but the volunteers who work there are extremely efficient at getting all of their patients seen just as quickly as possible.
I cannot describe for you the feeling that comes over me when we visit St. Lukeís Free Medical Clinic and receive top quality healthcare and the prescription drugs we need for literally nothing (the clinic only requests a $1-$2 donation to help defray the costs of the prescriptions). Considering that an average visit to see a doctor would have cost us in excess of $150 at any other medical facility, I am extremely grateful to the people at St. Lukeís Free Medical Clinic for being there to help us in our time of financial need.
I want to publicly applaud the hardworking volunteers and doctors at all the free clinics in South Carolina and across this nation who freely donate their valuable experience as nurses and physicians to be a Godsend to so many people. These men and women are part of what is right about America. When a fellow human is in need, we must all join together to help each other (before you go thinking Iím an ďit takes a villageĒ Hillary Clinton-ite, donít get bent out of shape!). Yes, our country would be a lot better off if we had more privately-funded programs like a free medical clinic!