47 million people in this country don't have health care insurance, that's nearly 16% of our population. 9 million of them are children.
In South Dakota, 11% of our residents aren't covered.
The week of April 27-May 3 is designated as Cover the Uninsured Week. A national effort to highlight the fact that public policy needs to change. We found out what Avera is doing to help here.
In March 718 people came to the Avera McKennan Downtown Center for medical care since it's a free Health Care Clinic. That's twice as many people as September. 9 out of 10 of those patients can't pay and don't have health care insurance.
Dr. James Barker is a full time physician at the Health Care Clinic. He says, "Another myth to put aside is we aren't see all homeless people. These are mostly working people who can't afford health care either through work or by buying it. We aren't seeing the destitute, a few, but mostly these are ordinary people who don't have health insurance."
Even with all they are doing here, 11 people are still turned away everyday.
Dr. Barker says, "We can only treat them here. Meaning if they come in with acute problems like a sore throat or rash we can treat them. But some come in with big problems. A quarter of those that come in are diabetics. We saw a guy last night who's foot was infected because of diabetes and had to have it amputated. At the end of the day it's hard to forget all the people you haven't truly treated. "
Sister Lynn Marie Welbig, PhD is on the Board of Directors for Avera. She says, "People need to become aware that the system itself doesn't work. "
Sr. Lynn Marie Welbig works closely with the working poor as a member of the Avera Health Governance. She says don't think this isn't your problem either. Everyones insurance prices go up to cover the cost of the uninsured. She says if national policy doesn't change, our public consciousness needs to.
She says, "The message is we are community. We want a healthy community and we just can't sit back and let things be. The gospel, good citizenship calls on us to stand up and say we want to change and we will do whatever it takes. We will vote, we will educate, we will complain, whatever it takes. We will ban together. We will look for healthier ways to carry on our own lives, but we can't sit and ring our hands and say ain't this awful. That won't do anything.
Sister Lynn Marie says Avera works very hard on educating people on what makes a healthy community. 40% is directly related to behavior, the choices we make on how we live. Only 10 % is tied directly to health care.