A newly released study shows that 46 million Americans are living day to day without health insurance. This is not only affecting healthcare providers financially, but it is also putting many lives at risk.
Out of that 46 million, 609,000 live in Dothan. Doctors say it is time for lawmakers in Washington to make healthcare their number one priority.
"There is a big gap in health care compared to the people who have insurance, the uninsured are only 25 percent more likely to see a doctor, when they need one," said Dr. Riza Lavizzo-Mourey.
Doctors say this problem is only getting worse.
“One in seven Americans has no health insurance. These are working people with jobs and families."
That means that health care providers have to take up the tab for uninsured patients when it comes to life saving procedures.
"It places a great burden on a hospital to provide indigent health care," said Dr. Cindy Tanton.
Officials at the Southeast Alabama Medical Center say the hospital spends close to $48 million ever year to cover the costs of procedures for uninsured patients.
Furthermore doctors say that many uninsured patients tend to skip screenings and tests, leaving a potentially fatal disease to become malignant.
"In Alabama, uninsured adults are nearly four times more likely not to see a doctor when they need one, compared to those who have insurance," said Lavizzo-Mourey.
"Often times, patients who do not have medical insurance or haven't been part of a medical plan or a medical experience, tend to avoid healthcare screenings, even dealing with the issue of healthcare," said Tanton.
"We're picking up cancers at much later stages, and that's causing lives today," said Dr. Leigh Vinocur
Access to health care is another problem; doctors and nurses in the Wiregrass are doing something to fix that. They're using a mobile unit to provide screenings for people who are unable to get the medical attention they need.
"To go out into the rural areas in all the southeastern areas of Alabama to take the screenings to where they are needed most," said Tanton.
These health care screening are free.
However, the problem remains. The number of uninsured Americans is steadily rising, and medical experts say the issue needs to be at the top of our country's legislative agenda.
In order to draw attention to this problem, organizations all across America will be holding more than 130 community events for “Cover the Uninsured Week.”
Those events begin next Monday.
"Cover the Uninsured Week" events include health fairs, educational forums, and enrollment events.
For more information, log on to www.covertheuninsuredweek.org