I went today to apply for an appointment to apply for a program administered by my county health department called MAP (Medical Assistance Program). They way it works is you get a card which says you're poor enough to be eligible for a range of clinics and services for low income people. I need this card before I can make an appointment at the dental clinic. I waited an hour to chat with a receptionist for 2 minutes and set an appointment for February 8, on which date I'll take various proofs of my identity and financial status and meet with a bureaucrat. Then there will be some period of waiting for them to determine my eligibility and issue and send the card. Then I can make the dental appointment, which I imagine will involve another period of waiting.
The office was nice enough, clean and cheerful and crowded, TV not too loud. I watched CNN and chatted with a young black guy and an older white man, cleared up a few myths about Iraq and 9/11 and surprised them both with the knowledge that most scientists believe that humans originated in Africa. (The white guy said, "I don't know -- them Chinese been around a long time," which made the black guy laugh really hard.)
All my experiences with county health services in Austin have been pleasant. I guess I had my trial by fire with low income health care in New York in the eighties when just about every encounter made me want to jump off a tall building or get a real job or something along those lines. The clinics here are luxury day spas compared to the clinics in New York.