Health Insurance alternatives for East Tennesseans

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Knoxville (WVLT) -- An article published in the Knoxville News Sentinel draws attention to the number of Knox County residents without health insurance.

And it prompted us to ask, for the 60 to 80 thousand Knox county residents without insurance, what options are there?

We're covering East Tennessee health with more on the resources available in our community.

Whether it's due to a job change, or because they simply can't afford the insurance premiums.

The United Way of Greater Knoxville says 60 to 80 thousand Knox County residents have no health insurance.

Dr. Parinda Khatri, Psychologist with Cherokee Health Systems says, "It has been absolutely devastating for many people in Knoxville, one event, even one illness, can impact not only their health status, their financial status, but those of their family."

Not long after Tenncare dis enrolled about 12,000 recipients in Knox County in 2005, the problem emerged and a partnership was formed.

Together, Cherokee Health Systems, Interfaith Health Clinic and the newly formed Knoxville Area Project Access, or KAPA, would meet the needs of the working uninsured.

Kimberly Weaver, Knoxville Area Project Access says, "They're showing up and they're actually very sick people because they've gone without care for so long."

Since that time, KAPA has provided 8,900 patients with $9 million in medical care, through its network of 800 area physicians, who donate their services.

To qualify, you must be a Knox County resident, with no other access to health insurance through your job or the government, and 200 percent or more below the poverty level.

For a family of four that's less than $41,000.

Weaver says, "We really want to be a stop gap. We want people that this is just a place where they can kind of find some health care and then go on and lead self-sufficient lives."

At Cherokee Health Systems, services are charged on a sliding scale based on income.

But no one will be turned away.

Khatri says, "Anyone who walks through our door, regardless of insurance status is going to get good health care and that could mean good medical primary care, behavioral health care."

It may not be a solution to this nationwide problem, now numbering more than $46 million, but it's a start.

To find out if you qualify for Knoxville area project access, call 531-2766.

If you don't qualify, private insurance may be your only other option.

Some high deductible plans may be more affordable than you think, and will protect you if something catastrophic happens, but you have to shop around.

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