Uninsured overwhelm ERs, clinics in Calif. county

Uninsured out-of-work professionals and laid-off blue-collar workers are stressing the health system in Stanislaus County, Calif., as reported by Jocelyn Wiener of the the California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting and the Modesto Bee‘s Ken Carlson.

Wiener and Carlson give us a few examples:

• A 56-year-old truck driver, uninsured since he was laid off in September 2009, who spent months unable to refill his diabetes and hypertension medications because he couldn’t afford to see a doctor

• A 28-year-old businessman, uninsured since his business closed in the fall of 2009, who came to the county for follow-up care after being shot in an attempted carjacking

These newly uninsured have few good options. Some suffer through medical issues; others postpone doctor’s visits, use over-the-counter medications or try less-expensive, alternative therapies. Some become so ill by delaying care that they end up in the hospital. Local emergency rooms have seen a 64 percent increase in visits by the uninsured since 2006.

Indigent health services programs, offering some relief to the uninsured, have seen a 32 percent jump in applicants, from 5,953 in 2006 to 7,829 in 2010. Meanwhile, program funding has dropped from $14.4 million to $12.6 million annually.

Furthermore, programs such as AIDS and HIV case management, testing and outreach; guidance for pregnant and parenting teens; support for families with mental health and substance abuse problems; and case management for seniors have been reduced or cut entirely.

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