United Way Seeks to Insure the Uninsured

By: Jessa Goddard
By: Jessa Goddard

Knoxville (WVLT) - Improving community health. It's the largest endeavor the United Way of Greater Knoxville has undertaken in its 87 year history.

Tuesday, the organization announced plans to invest more than $3.7 million to provide basic health services to thousands of uninsured Knox County residents.

And they're starting one patient at a time.

They are the working uninsured, forty-five to sixty thousand Knox County residents slipping through the cracks.

Working people who can't afford health insurance, but don't qualify for state or federal programs.

"Across the board, their feedback to us was, to really make a difference for people, they need access to a primary care physician, they need access to a medical home, and all the medical services that go along with that,” says United Way Board Member Melanie Robinson.

The $3.7 million will fund the three year project, a partnership between United Way, Cherokee Health Systems, Interfaith Health Clinic and Knoxville Area Project Access.

Each will add staff and expand hours to meet the needs of 7,000 uninsured Knox County residents.

"We didn't want to build buildings. There are plenty of buildings that can be used to serve people, medically. But, we need to expand the staff, the availability,” says Robinson.

The project will educate patients about how to use the health care system cost-effectively and responsibly, to reduce the strain on local emergency rooms and charities.

"Ten thousand medical homes won't take care of everybody, but it certainly will help a large number of the uninsured in our community,” says Cherokee Health Systems CEO Dr. Dennis Freeman.

A first step in creating lasting change in our community.

"And I'm not really aware of United Way in any other community, taking on this issue, so it really is community led,” says Dr. Freeman.

Providing access to basic preventive care and wellness support to patients who will become healthier individuals, making up a healthier East Tennessee community.

The project will officially begin July first, when each of the three health care providers will begin accepting applicants.

To apply, contact Cherokee Health Systems, Interfaith Health Clinic or Knoxville Area Project Access.

Applicants who qualify will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis.

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