Long lines for free health care in LA

LOS ANGELES - The crowds lining up overnight at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena weren't there for a rock concert or basketball game. They came to see a doctor for free - a year after Congress passed health care reform. CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports dental and eye care are still largely uncovered by state and private insurance.

Dorothy Banks, 60, says there is no way she can pay for the medical care she needs. "I wouldn't have money to buy food or other things," Banks said. "I wouldn't have that money."

Kriss Bonilla, 34, works as a cook but doesn't have health insurance. As the father of two it worries him that he rarely sees a doctor. "I want to be here for the future of my kids," Bonilla said. "It is very important for me to take care of myself. If I don't take care of myself, who will take care of my kids?"

They joined about 3,700 others at a once-a-year free clinic organized by the Los Angeles non-profit CareNow. Some 800 doctors and medical workers donated their time. Hospitals and clinics provided equipment and medicine.

Hundreds wait for free health care in LA (2010)

Free health clinic lures hundreds in L.A. (2009)

Banks went to get her eyes checked. A former long-haul truck driver now on disability, Banks is covered by Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program. But state budget cuts two years ago eliminated coverage for most vision services.

"I never gave it a thought that one day I would not have health care, and I would not be working," Banks said.

A painful wisdom tooth is what brought Kriss Bonilla here. He runs a burger stand in south Los Angeles, earning about $400 a week. It's not enough to buy health insurance even with tax breaks for small businesses available under the new Affordable Care Act.

Bonilla says he likes to pay his own way. He got his first job when he was 11 and has been working ever since trying to make enough for himself and his family.

"It's very stressful," Bonilla said. "I'm not going to deny it, but I got to keep my head up."

Even with his wisdom tooth freshly pulled, Bonilla left the free clinic with a smile on his face. In a city with more than 2 million uninsured he was among the lucky ones.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.