The Key Arena can provide life-changing experiences: cheering the Seattle Storm to its first WNBA championship in 2004; watching songwriter Leonard Cohen give his final performance in Seattle in 2012.
Add to that list life-changing medical, vision and dental care through the Seattle/King County Clinic, a four-day event providing free health care to anyone who waits in line for the help.
Seattle resident Stephanie Boen got in line at 3:30 a.m. on Oct. 26 at the clinic for her appointment. Around 5:30 a.m., the clinic started handing out numbers.
They were warned that it could take hours to be seen for a number of treatments, which could include fillings and root canals.
For many, the wait would be worth it. Despite President Barack Obama’s expansion of Medicaid — known casually as Obamacare — 28 million people in the United States remain uninsured.
More are also underinsured, able to get some care but perhaps unable to afford the copays required for a number of treatments.
Boen has medical insurance through Obamacare, but she doesn’t have dental care. She has a regular dentist but relies on the Seattle/King County Clinic for treatments.
After waiting nearly seven hours, Boen walked into the arena to find volunteer doctors and nurses lining the floor of Key Arena in several rows.
The clinic provides a wide array of services: fillings, crowns, root canals, vaccines, mammograms, ultrasounds and vision tests.
Boen received a custom cap (kind of like a crown), a cleaning and some blood tests. The dental work would have been difficult to manage before.
“Dental work is expensive,” she said, adding that with the clinic, “I’ve probably saved between $1,000 and $2,000 just on dental alone. It saves me money, it saves our family budget. For me, it’s worth it.”
Before the clinic began four years ago, Boen would forgo dental work.
“I would go two to three years between cleanings and just hope that I didn’t have a dental emergency,” she said.
The Seattle Center puts on the clinic with support from Public Health — Seattle & King County and dozens of partner organizations.
The Seattle Center runs the program with an annual budget of approximately $750,000.
In 2016, during the third iteration of the clinic, the clinic provided $3.9 million in dental, vision and medical care to more than 4,000 people.
Aaron Burkhalter is the editor. Have a story idea? He can be can reached at aaronb (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @aaronburkhalter
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