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Brochures and handouts on affordable care act also know as Obamacare, healthcare information at the education outreach booth sponsor by Daughters of Charity O'Connor Hospital at Santa Clara County Library Alum Rock branch, San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. Obamacare plan launches nationwide today. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group)

In the Bay Area, thousands of individuals are living without health care insurance and are unaware of free health services available to them.

Under the Affordable Care Act, everyone must have health insurance. However, this mandate is not applicable to people who cannot afford insurance because the minimum premium is more than 8 percent of their household income, and those with incomes below the income tax filing requirement.

For filing 2013 taxes, the income cutoff is $10,000 for an individual and $20,000 for a couple. For the 2011 tax year, 76 million individuals, or 46.4 percent of tax filers, were exempt from federal income taxes.

What happens to these individuals when they need medical attention? Do they feel they have options or are they paralyzed by fear? After being without insurance for a year, I can personally attest that fear is undoubtedly the overriding emotion.

Being a student, I am constantly around people. Being a premedical student who volunteers in two different hospitals, I am always around many sick people.

I felt uneasy knowing that if I caught any kind of sickness, I would not be able to visit a doctor nor get antibiotics I needed. It took months until I was informed of these services. This led me to wonder how many others were living with the idea they had no options for health care.

According to 2011 data proposed by the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, approximately 20 percent of the Bay Area population (1.3 million people) is considered to be below the poverty line. In California, 25.1 percent of children and 21.4 percent of working adults live in poverty. In overall data, more poverty-stricken children live in California than in any other state.

Reflecting on this data, one can infer it is highly likely there are many individuals living in the Bay Area today who are struggling to afford the most basic of health care services.

These individuals need to be informed that there are free health services available. What can you do? You can communicate: Tell others about these services, hand out this newspaper. Informing others can ultimately lead to someone finally feeling secure about their health. You could even ultimately save a life.

Here are two options for someone in need of free health care:

  • Located at 32 sites in Contra Costa, Alameda and Solano counties, La Clínica provides health care services to all patients regardless of their ability to pay. Services include adult medicine, pediatrics, vision and eye care, dental, women's health, clinical health education and behavioral health care services. Depending upon family size and income, financial assistance is given to those in need.

  • Located in Contra Costa, Alameda and Marin counties, LifeLong Medical Care provides services in adult medicine, pediatrics, elderly care, prenatal care, counseling/mental health services, wellness and health education, HIV/AIDS care and dental services. These clinics also provide a full range of services in Spanish.

    For more information, contact La Clínica at www.laclinica.org or 510-535-4000 and LifeLong Medical Care at www.lifelongmedical.org or 510-981-4100.

    If Internet is not available, visit you local library to find the nearest clinic.

    Alejandra Ortiz, a resident of San Ramon, is a premedical student working under the Stanford School of Medicine's Center of Excellence in Diversity in Medical Education's LEAP program to improve the health of Bay Area communities.