Democracy Soup

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Rich Stockwell suggested Keith Olbermann promote free clinics to earn Wings of Justice

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Originally published on on October 28, 2009

Rich Stockwell

Sometimes, a spark is all you need.

When Keith Olbermann was preparing an entire episode of “Countdown” devoted to a Special Comment on health care reform, producer Rich Stockwell suggested using the episode to raise money for free clinics and hold them in key states where Democratic senators were still on the fence over the public option.

Olbermann went on the air that night and called for people to respond to help set up the free clinics. As of last week, nearly 17,000 contributors gave $1.2 million.

The episode dealt with numerous problems with the health care crisis in the United States. Olbermann sprinkled a generous helping of his own saga with his father who has been receiving medical care after a fall. But as good as the hour was, it would have been hollow without the opportunity to do something about this.

Those on the left have watched the people screaming on their televisions about “socialist health care” and other such nonsense. But doing something so basic and so concrete such as setting up free clinics in crucial battleground states made more visible the suffering from ordinary Americans who aren’t being theoretical when asked about whether the United States has “the best health care system in the world.”

We don’t. But for those at home, those who may not know too many cases, or has a neighbor down the street who is suffering but doesn’t know it’s happening, they need visual reminders. Watching people line up in a large room, waiting to get simple medical treatment, knowing that however long they wait, they will get medical care and, for once, not have to sweat over the financial impact.

Sometimes, it just takes a spark.

There will be free clinics set up in New Orleans (Louisiana — Sen. Mary Landrieu) on November 14, Little Rock (Arkansas — Sen. Blanche Lincoln) on November 21, and a two-day event in Kansas City, MO on December 9 and 10.

National Association of Free Clinics Executive Director Nicole Lamoureaux told Olbermann on last week’s countdown that Kansas City has a very strong network of people.

And what we’re able to do a show that in the middle of the country, in America’s heartland, our working Americans have the same problems that we’re seeing in our urban areas and into the coast. It’s the opportunity for us to make a huge statement that people need a good quality health care package, and doing this in Missouri gives us the opportunity to show what a safety net system can bring to the table.

Stockwell’s idea, likely just kicking around thoughts in a Manhattan office, lives on hundreds and thousands of miles away. People — who wouldn’t know Stockwell if he walked up to them — got help as a result of one idea.

While these events are in the spotlight, given the current attempt at health care reform, Lamoureaux pointed out that the problem is ongoing. She said 83% of people who go to these free clinics have jobs.

We hope that people in those states that don’t have a robust free clinic network will start them. But we also want to make sure that when we go in and have a clinic on a day, that it’s about the follow-up care that we can give to those patients as well.

There is a sense that despite living in the richest country in the world (in that sense, we are #1), we have to resort to shame to try and convince people that universal health care makes sense for all of us. Every little bit helps, including TV images of people lining up for medical help at free clinics.

A lot of people need to be involved to make such a master plan work. But all of this started with one idea. As Olbermann put it, “And my thanks to Rich Stockwell of my crack staff who suggested our involvement in this and hit a home run what he did.”

Rich Stockwell, for coming up with the spark of an idea to illustrate the health care crisis by raising money for free clinics, wins the Wings of Justice award.

In addition to raising money, the clinics are looking for volunteers. More information is available at


Written by democracysoup

October 28, 2009 at 6:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. […] has been a lot of attention paid to free clinics, thanks to the initiative of Rich Stockwell and the rest at “Countdown” on MSNBC. But the real heroes of these events haven’t had their fair share of the […]

  2. […] drew attention to the increasing use of free clinics, thanks to donations, there were people who got medical attention who otherwise would not have been able to get help. Olbermann’s stories about his mother and later father passing brought a human face to those […]

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