Free Medical Clinic for Uninsured People Draws Thousands

A massive free health clinic for uninsured people in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday morning attracted nearly two thousand people, from infants to the elderly, all taking advantage of free doctor attention, blood tests and cancer screenings they otherwise wouldn't be able to afford.

The C.A.R.E. (Communities Are Responding Everday) Clinic, sponsored by the National Association of Free Clinics, is the seventh in a series of clinics around the country offering uninsured people HIV/AIDS testing, mental health services, pregnancy tests, pharmacy counseling and strep tests in addition to routine physicals.

Donald Johnson, 50, and his old friend Johnnie Hindsman, 57, said they heard about the clinic and decided to make a day of it, since both of them lost their health insurance when they got laid off from their jobs. Johnson, who worked full-time at the Washington Scholarship Fund before it folded in March 2009, said he came to the clinic to take advantage of the free prostate cancer screenings and to have his blood pressure checked.

"I had a very good plan when I was working -- vision, dental, the whole thing," he told HuffPost. "But that COBRA, it costs an arm and a leg. I think it's terrible -- how can you afford it without an income? I'm 50 years old, trying to avoid the doctor and buy all my medications over the counter."

Johnson said he has a B.A. in accounting and has been to more interviews than he can count, but he can't seem to land a job, and his unemployment benefits are scheduled to run out in 6 weeks.

"I don't know, I think it's age discrimination," Johnson said. "It's the grey hair -- they see it and they think, 'I could get somebody younger and pay them less', you know? I'm gonna try dying it black to see if that works."

Johnson's friend Hindsman, who taught carpentry in D.C. public schools for 24 years, has had a similar experience since being laid off in October of 2009. The school that laid him off only offered him one month of continued health benefits, and he has been unable to find work since.

"Did I think I was gonna be coming to a free health clinic after working as a teacher for 24 years? No," he told HuffPost. "My resumé speaks for itself."

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Washington, D.C. has more than 57,200 residents who are uninsured -- about 10.4 percent of its population. The purpose of the clinic is to connect some of these uninsured people with community resources and safety net providers so they can receive ongoing care.

Johnson said he is grateful for the help.

"Luckily, I'm in pretty good shape," he said. "But at my age, you really shouldn't have to go so long without seeing a doctor."