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The Town Hall You Didn't See

The most telling health-care event of the last week was not a town hall. It was not a press conference or a speech or a rally. There were no politicians or protesters. Instead, there were just a lot of people waiting in a very long line outside an arena in Los Angeles. Inside the event space, a nonprofit named Remote Area Medical was offering free dental care to people who needed it, not to mention blood pressure checks, mammograms and immunizations.

Thousands of people came. They flooded the arena. Remote Area Medical couldn't handle them all. And they didn't come because they enjoy going to the dentist, or mean to sell their mammogram on eBay. They came because they needed help. They came on the same day that the media was in another state entirely recording comfortably insured conservative activists shout at Arlen Specter. That was probably for the best. It's hard to speak clearly into the cameras when your mouth is swollen from a long-overdue root canal.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 14, 2009; 10:08 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Remote Area medical usually only offers these services in out of touch rural areas where there is literally no access to medical care, but the story is much the same in South Central. This is the first clinic they've held in an inner-city setting. They've had to turn away more people than they've served, and keep in mind they are only offering the most basic services. California is a great state, but not if you're poor.

Posted by: HughManatee | August 14, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Remote Area Medical's donation page is

Posted by: bdballard | August 14, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

I actually did see it: on the CBS and NBC nightly news (they had it on separate nights). But the point the event's presence makes out our health care system is apt nonetheless.

Posted by: y2josh_us | August 14, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse


I worked at a RAM (rechristened MedWorks) event in Cleveland a few weeks ago. The event was limited to only 1,000 patients (the original, bigger version was canceled due to swine flu considerations) but it was still staggering and horrifying.

Seven people were removed from the event and sent straight to the emergency room. That's how sick they were. And shat's how bad things are for the people who can't afford insurance.


Posted by: russell1820 | August 14, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse


Cranky Medicare recipients chanting at town halls would seem to deserve a day of volunteering at such an event.

Posted by: wcwhiner | August 14, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

The Forum is what doctors offices and hospitals will look like under Obamacare.

Posted by: ronjaboy | August 14, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Robjaboy--The MLK harbor hospital is what it looked like without Obamacare, so overcrowded and underfunded its declared a menace and forced to shut down by the state, leaving an entire population without any medical access.

Posted by: HughManatee | August 14, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

We are, by and large, a gullible, paranoid, mean-spirited lot. And some of us are as vulnerable as the poorest of poor countries. I try to remember this when I hear the usual blather about our unprecedented prosperity, generosity and sagacity.

Posted by: pneogy | August 14, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

I just do not see the reason for this organization at all. Everyone in this country has access to health care. All they have to do is go to the ER....hahaha

Posted by: scott1959 | August 14, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Shorter ronjaboy: "f*ck you, I got mine."

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | August 14, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Check out this evening's Bill Maher. Dana Gould does a nice piece contrasting the town hall and the Remote Area Medical.

Posted by: iag4 | August 15, 2009 12:31 AM | Report abuse

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