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Cover the Uninsured Week in South Dakota

April 24, 2007

Sioux Falls, SD - This is “Cover the Uninsured Week” and the state's community healthcare centers are working to draw attention to the 16,000 South Dakota children who don't have health insurance. Mary O'Meary Metz with the Community HealthCare Association of the Dakotas says 8 out of 10 children nationwide who are uninsured come from working families.

“It's not like we've got all these people that have no jobs that are uninsured. And, in fact, 23 percent of the nation's uninsured workers are in firms that employ 500 people or more. So, there's just a lot of issues around people being uninsured. It is not necessarily because they don't have jobs.”

O'Meary Metz notes that the state is gaining some ground using a South Dakota insurance risk pool, which was created in 2003 to provide coverage to families who have lost coverage. But she adds the catch is that families have to show proof they had credible insurance before they can be accepted into the pool.

“There are some caveats with it. If you've got a chronic disease and you haven't been currently insured you're not eligible for the risk pool either. So, it's not the cure all for everyone. The legislature in 2005 did pass a law that dependents can have access to insurance up to their 19th birthday. And if they're a full-time student they can even have it up to their 24th birthday through this risk pool.”

O'Meary Metz points out that there's a huge risk for people without coverage. She says 18,000 Americans die each year because they don't have health insurance.

“So, what we need to do is encourage people to check on this risk pool, to talk to their employers about group plans and/or to seek out a community health center where, at least, they can get some of their routine care at a discounted cost to the patient. That's important because, if you take good care of yourself, you're less likely to get terminally ill.”

David Law/Eric Mack, Public News Service - SD