Life Without Health Insurance In East Tennessee

By: Stephen McLamb
By: Stephen McLamb

The headline was included as part of a news release.
It said there are "enough people in Knox, Blount, and Sevier counties without health insurance, to more than fill Neyland Stadium.
That would be more than 104,000 people.
Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb went to find out if that's true.
There are a lot of people who don't have health insurance and often can't get the care they need which can lead to even bigger problems.
Michael Gill did not have health insurance, got ill, and had to make a financial and life decision.
"It's a stress. You wonder do I really, really, really need to go see a doctor or will I get over this."
Tracy Kramer, community activist says, "Across the United States, one in five Americans don't have health insurance. In our own backyard we have enough people to fill Neyland Stadium with plenty to spare."
The State Department of Finance and Administration says that number is still enough to fill at least half of Neyland stadium.
In Blount, Sevier, and Knox counties, state officials say there's a combined total of 68,933 people without insurance.
Dr. Tom Kim at the Free Medical Clinic on Chapman Highway sees many people who have problems such as diabetes and hypertension and don't take medicine because they can't afford it, which only creates bigger problems.
"Sooner or later they are going to have a stroke or heart attack and they'll go on the category of disability. Who pays for disability?"
But those without insurance are not just those people without jobs.
Kramer says, "People who work for small businesses can't afford the premiums and therefore go without."
Dr. Kim says people without insurance have fewer options simply because they don't have the money to pay, and that leaves people like Michael Gill at the gambling table.
Gill continues, "You wonder, well, how much can you gamble with your own life and your own health."
The free clinic survives through donations from hospitals and the general public.
Fagan's Jewelers off Chapman Highway will hold the South Knox Jewelry Jam fundraiser for the clinic from 5 to 10 pm on Saturday.


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