PATHS CEO Pens Editorial: Close the Coverage Gap for Virginia’s Working Poor

“The cost of caring for the uninsured also affects a community’s ability to maintain a healthy workforce, and to provide quality of life for its citizens… The real impact of being uninsured lies in the quality of life for the uninsured and the cost to the communities in which they live.”

While the Affordable Care Act made it possible for many to access health care, there continues to be a gap in coverage for Virginia’s working poor. These are people who are trying to work and support their families but cannot afford the high premiums set by the insurance companies.   Therefore many have to make the difficult decision to forego health coverage. The uninsured are often stereotyped as poor, jobless, and often near the end of their lives.  The reality is most are working hard, but many do struggle with both health issues and have multiple clinical issues, often behavioral health issues or social issues,  such as the lack of affordable housing, food, as well as, health care.

Fifty percent of all health care dollars are spent on five percent of the population.  Those with the lowest life expectancy incur the most health care costs. The fiscal cost of caring for the uninsured is astronomical for the hospitals, federally qualified community health centers and free clinics.  Last year alone, PATHS spent almost $2 million for uncompensated care for the uninsured.  Of PATHS 13,000 patients we served this represented 3,887 uninsured patients.  Just think of the other services and care that $2 million could provide if it wasn’t needed for the uninsured.

The cost of caring for the uninsured also affects a community’s ability to maintain a healthy workforce, provide quality of life for its citizens, and provide preventative care which reduces health care costs for those suffering with chronic disease such as diabetes and hypertension.  Statistics paint only a part of the picture.

Read Ms. Krane’s full editorial.