More than 14,000 people in Marshall and St. Joseph counties combined are living without insurance coverage, forcing many to live in fear of getting sick, or to forgo medical and preventive care to address current illnesses.
Organizations such Covering Kids and Families and its lead agency, United Health Services, and others are sounding the alarm on the crisis, and taking action to address the epidemic of uninsured in their part of northern Indiana.
“Many of these families have either had very little if any experience with the healthcare system, or they have just given up,” said Jim Baxter, executive director of Covering Kids and Families of Northern Indiana. “If we could just lower the uninsured rate by 7 percent, in say St. Joe County for example, another 18,500 families would have health-insurance coverage.”
Baxter says cost is the biggest fear most uninsured face. And, for good reason, he explains: nearly 8 in 10 uninsured individuals have less than $1,000 in savings and about half have less than $100.
Covering Kids and Families and United Health Services are bringing together community partners and health-care providers to address the crisis, and options like the Affordable Healthcare Act Marketplace and the new Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP 2.0) are significant options to help lower the crisis level of uninsured.
On Oct. 22, community organizations such as hospitals, clinics, mental health services providers, schools, insurance providers and the county health department came together to discuss and map out a plan to reduce barriers and increase access to affordable health care, establish resource sharing among coalition partners, and provide education that effectively responds to health disparities and positively influences public policy.
“While hospitals and clinics are a significant intake avenue for the uninsured, we know we’re just scratching the surface,” said Baxter. “We have to go to them; we have to meet them wherever they are in life, and make them aware that health-insurance coverage can be an affordable and available reality for them.”
Alice Moore, who was without insurance for almost a year, signed up for healthcare insurance through the healthcare exchange, and was able to get medical care for a condition she didn’t know she had. “The medical bills would have been over $100,000,” she said. “And the medication is expensive.”
Jim Gavin, who has been spearheading the statewide outreach for the new Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP 2.0) for Family and Social Services Agency attended the coalition event and applauded the effort.
“While the numbers in the HIP 2.0 program are growing, we still have tens of thousands of people across Indiana who are eligible and haven’t yet applied,” said Gavin. “It’s in efforts like this, where communities band together, plan together, and outreach collectively that we find the greatest success occurs.”