The Uncovered

How New York’s Uninsured Really Survive

"I had to pay $80 for just one prescription," Ramos says in hushed tones. "I'll never forget that, taking out all that cash in the Duane Reade."

Had she known about them, Ramos might have ended up at one of the city's public hospitals or community health centers, both of which provide care regardless of a patient's ability to pay. The public hospitals also offer low-cost prescriptions for the uninsured, as does one community health center, the William F. Ryan Center on West 97th Street, which subsidizes drug costs so patients can get prescriptions filled for only $5.

Or, were Ramos one of Dr. Dave's patients, she might have benefitted from the free drug samples he collects or the subsidy he's hoping to provide through his fundraising. But Dr. Dave's latest extravaganza raised a mere $1200 and, by his own accounts, the doctor is just "eking by." In fact, making as little as he does from medicine, he himself cannot afford health insurance.

"But I have lots of friends who are doctors and can take care of me if necessary," says Dr. Dave dismissively. It's the medical have-nots he's worried about, of course—the hundreds of patients who have come to his office desperate for help. "They get sick. Everyone in the nation is going to get sick at some point, so we should just pay for it."

To find out about the community health center nearest you, call the Community Health Care Association of New York State at (212) 870-2273.

For information about public hospitals, check out the Health and Hospitals Corporation Web site at or call the Commission on the Public's Health System at (212) 749-1227.

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