Saturday, April 17, 2004

Focus: uninsured



By Matt Leingang
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LINCOLN HEIGHTS - It's not "other people" who lack health insurance.

Of the 44 million Americans without health insurance - including 150,000 in Greater Cincinnati - eight out of 10 are in working families.

They are carpenters, small-business owners and entrepreneurs. They are neighbors and friends.

Organizers of the second annual "Cover the Uninsured Week" hope to convey that message as they campaign May 10-16 to promote affordable health coverage.

"In a country as prosperous as ours, the plight of the uninsured is a national disgrace," said the Rev. Michael Graham, president of Xavier University and one of the chairmen of the local group, which includes doctors, nurses, business owners, educators and religious leaders.

Graham announced Friday that the May 10 kick-off event will be a health fair on Fountain Square downtown.

Greater Cincinnati is one of 21 metropolitan areas participating in the national campaign, which is sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, N.J.

Skyrocketing health care costs continue to undermine the ability of individuals, businesses and state governments to buy coverage, the group says.

And as the number of people without health insurance grows, the safety nets in the system, such as free clinics, community health centers, emergency departments and hospitals, can't pick up the slack, the group said.

Friday's news conference was at the new Lincoln Heights Health Center, a building under construction on Steffens Street scheduled to open in late June.

The health center, now operating on Adams Street, is one of those safety nets: About 30 percent of its 12,000 patients lack health insurance, said executive director Dolores Lindsay.

"These aren't poor people or traditional welfare recipients," Lindsay said. "These are people who had been gainfully employed but suddenly found themselves without a job."

Week's events

When: May 10-16

What: National effort to promote affordable health care for all Americans.

Where: Various locations throughout Greater Cincinnati. Kick-off event is a health fair that begins at 11:30 a.m. May 10 on Fountain Square.

For a complete list of events, visit www.healthfoundation.org

Local sponsors: The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, United Way of Greater Cincinnati and the Greater Cincinnati Health Access Project.

This year's chairmen: the Rev. Michael Graham, president of Xavier University; Michael Fisher, president of Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce; and Gwen Robinson, president of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Community Action Agency.

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Email mleingang@enquirer.com




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