Focus on the uninsured...

Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2005


  Physicians and community members gathered to discuss how to cover the un-insured last week at the Soldotna Sports Center.

Physicians and community members gathered to discuss how to cover the un-insured last week at the Soldotna Sports Center.

About 50 people representing a broad cross section of the Central Peninsula community turned out for a public forum at the Soldotna Sports Center last week in honor of national Cover the Uninsured Week. A coalition of concerned community organizations coordinated by Kira Rodriguez held the event to discuss access to health care on the Kenai Peninsula. The discussion moderated by Soldotna City Councilwoman Jane Stein and former Soldotna Police Chief Shirley Gifford encouraged people to share what they are experiencing regarding health care insurance. "I was surprised to learn that nationally 8 out of 10 people who are uninsured are working and here in Alaska 74% of those uninsured has at least one full time worker in the household, so this is really a problem that is affecting nearly everyone, not just the poor or unemployed," said Rodriguez.

According to national reports people without health care insurance often go without care or delay care and suffer the health consequences of not having access to adequate health care. Locally it is estimated that more than 20% of residents on the Kenai Peninsula have no health insurance.

The purpose of the forum was not only to spotlight the problem, but to take the first step in finding solutions to accessing healthcare for the uninsured. "We documented concerns and possible solutions. Everyone was very forthcoming with their comments, we will compile those, take a further look, and hold other town meetings so we can expand the public input and attempt to find a way to tackle the problems that are facing uninsured people on the Kenai Peninsula," said Gifford. According to Gifford the group that gathered last week identified the major problem that is causing Alaska to be fourth in the nation for uninsured is the fact that health insurance is unaffordable.

In 1989 an issue was put before the voters that would have allowed the Borough to explore more affordable health insurance by becoming self-insured. The ballot proposition was defeated by a ten percent margin, "A lot of time has passed since then, insurance costs have risen, health care costs have risen, and a lot of things have changed since then for the insured as well as the uninsured, so that may be a possibility that this group will revisit," added Gifford.

Rodriguez says that a report will be forthcoming from the meeting and that future town meetings will be scheduled and announced.

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