Monday, April 28, 2008

Help for the Uninsured

Around the end of October of 2006, I bought 2 bags of candy to hand out to trick or treaters. I live on a street where no children reside and we seldom get Halloween visitors. Few came and someone had to eat all that leftover chocolate. It was gone in days. Little did I know that, two weeks later, I would test my blood glucose on a dare and within a month, be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I have no idea how high my sugar went from eating that candy, how long I've had the disease or how much damage I've done, but many people could have diabetes or other conditions for many years and not know it. I had symptoms for quite some time and shrugged them off, like a lot of men do. I hate going to the doctor. Constant hunger with a sudden loss of weight, frequent urination and the tingling, numbness and sharp pains in my extremities from diabetic neuropathy were warnings I should not have ignored, but maladies that creep up with middle age and the lack of health insurance were good enough excuses for me to pretend nothing was seriously wrong. Until that day a lancet pierced my finger, those symptoms meant nothing. How quickly life changes. I needed help and I got it, but my thoughts turned to the countless others without health insurance. What about low-income families who don't go to the doctor because they can't afford to? Are they aware there's help out there? There is, but the trick is how to educate them about where to go for treatment.

In the Orlando, Florida area, there are clinics affiliated with PCAN, the Primary Care Access Network that specializes in health care for the underinsured. There's the Central Florida Family Health Center with locations scattered throughout the area. You pay according to your income level based on the US Department of Health & Human Services' poverty guidelines. For the homeless, there's HCCH, the Health Care Center for the Homeless. Also, try the Florida Association of Community Health Centers.

Thankfully, our community is also blessed with faith-based Shepherd's Hope, nonprofit clinics that provide free assistance in a family-practice setting. Their mission is not one of continuous-care. It is to provide non-emergency treatment to those in need. Presently, there are 8 all volunteer health centers and they are a godsend. Their website states that, of the uninsured population nationwide, 8 out of 10 people are not eligible for government assisted health care plans. Most are hard-working and many work several part time jobs to make ends meet. Putting food on the family table and a roof over their heads are primary concerns and not much is left over.

I did a search for “free Orlando clinics” and found Shepherd’s Hope in this area. In America, on the federal level, the Hill-Burton Act was passed in 1946 to help you find health care, regardless of your ability to pay. My advice would be to go to that site and explore clinics closest to where you live. I would further suggest you first do a search like I did, only replace “Orlando” with your town. If that doesn’t work, try using alternative key words along with your search, such as "medical" or "health", like “free health care decatur alabama” until something pops up. If your search yields nothing in your area, go to Hill-Burton and look through the facility locations.

Through local and national grants, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and dedicated volunteers, there are countless clinics around the U.S. and throughout the world that are willing to help those in need. Look in the phone book. Call your local government. Ask a friend for advice. All you need to do is seek in order to find and if all else fails, contact one of the organizations listed here. They might be able to steer you in the right direction.

No comments:

Post a Comment