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Health Care Forum Fosters Reform Dialogue

Experts on the front lines of health care in this community gathered Thursday night at the Louisville Science Center to help foster more debate and dialogue about proposed changes to the country’s health care system.  Panelist William Wagner heads the city’s nonprofit health care delivery system, Family Health Centers.  He says that his agency is the primary safety net for the city’s uninsured, and it’s struggling to meet the growing need.
 
“We have 43,000 individual patients that we see every year, so we’re taking care of about 25,000 individual patients every year who are uninsured in our clinics. And that’s out of a total number of 80,000 persons who are uninsured in Jefferson County,” said Wagner.
 
Wagner told the audience he believes the time is now for health care reform because these numbers are unsustainable.

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Local News

Uninsured Straining Hospital ERs

Emergency rooms across the country are being overwhelmed by uninsured patients who can’t afford private doctors or insurance for basic health care.   Saints Mary and Elizabeth Hospital CEO Tom Gessel says they’ve seen a steady increase in the number of uninsured patients turning to the emergency room for basic health care.  Gessel says that puts a strain on this nonprofit hospital.

“I think at a national level this is going to have to be dealt with on a much broader scale if hospitals are going to continue to be that safety net available to the communities to provide care to patients with no insurance. In the mean time, these safety net hospitals have become the de facto insurer of these uninsured patients,” says Gessel.

Gessel says about half the hospital’s patients receive Medicare.  And lower reimbursement rates are also stretching hospital resources.