News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
FRIDAY, JUNE 10, 2005


State still has people who need insurance

Most Alabamians apparently are surprised that some 85 percent of state residents have medical insurance.

That's because Ask Alabama, a polling service at Auburn University, found that 66 percent of the people polled think a majority of their neighbors are not so fortunate.

It is, perhaps, our generous attention to getting medical insurance for poor children that has caused this distorted image of health services in Alabama. But that still leaves more than half a million Alabamians without access, or adequate access, to medical help.

As expected, low income, working-age adults make up the largest group nationally without insurance. They comprise some 80 percent of the uninsured.

That's because low-income workers are less likely to be offered coverage through their job, or able to afford buying insurance on their own.

As a result, 18,000 Americans die prematurely each year solely because they lack health care.

That gap in coverage is why the Community Free Clinic of Decatur-Morgan County opened in Decatur and the waiting room is full each Tuesday and Thursday nights when the volunteer medical staff sees patients.

Medical insurance is a worker benefit that most employers provide as a way of keeping employees, and keeping them healthy.

Workers who lack medical coverage are less likely to receive preventive care and more likely to wind up in the hospital.

Low-paying industries that experience high worker turnover might consider another fact uncovered in the poll. Twenty-two percent of the people said they stayed on a job they didn't like just to keep health insurance.

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