The Norman Transcript


January 27, 2013

Pottawatomie County's free clinic a microcosm of Issues facing state



Garvin was told she was in no shape to return to work. Her doctor agreed to waive his charge. But she says the hospital is demanding $36,000 for her stay there. She has no way to pay unless Social Security approves her application for disability benefits.

She figures that’s a long shot.

“I still get a call every day for the hospital bill,” she says. “Literally every single day. I tell them I’ve applied for Social Security, and I’m still waiting.”

Garvin, who lives in the country near Pink, also has diabetes and neuropathy, which causes numbness in her feet. She injects a half-dozen vials of insulin every month. She takes six or seven pills a day. She estimates the drugs would cost $700 to $1,200 a month if she did not receive free refills.

 The last time Garvin went to see her heart doctor, she was told she needed a stress test.  When she learned it would cost her $1,000, she declined.

“I won’t be having that,” she says.


Too many people

Copeland’s volunteer roster contains the names of about 80 doctors, nurses, pharmacists, technicians, clerks and other helpers. On any given Thursday evening, about 20 people pitch in.

But it’s not quite enough to keep up with rising demand. On this night, five people will be told they’ll need to wait at least a week to see a doctor.

“It’s getting worse all the time,” says Ty Johnson, who shows up every week to handle patient intake. She bustles about the crowded clinic with a clipboard, calling out names and handing out paperwork. “We’re getting more and more people.”

Not everyone makes the cut. To qualify, patients must be Pottawatomie County residents, must have no other form of insurance coverage, and must fall below income caps that are considerably lower than those contained in the Obama expansion plan.

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