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For Many in Manatee County, Quality Health Care is Still Out of Reach

By Victoria Kasdan, RN, MPH, Exec. Director, We Care Manatee

The good news on the national and local scene is that unemployment rates are low. The not-so-good news is that low unemployment rates are not a predictor of good health, or even an ability to access affordable health care when you need it. With one of the nation’s lowest minimum wage rates and highest uninsured populations (19 percent), more than 3.6 million Floridians do not have health insurance. In Manatee County, nearly 15 percent of residents do not have health care.

Let’s face it; access to health care is expensive. Actual cost can vary depending on the severity of the condition, the setting where the care is provided, and the intensity of services needed. For instance, an average primary care office visit costs $150; a visit to an Emergency Room (ER) starts at $500 but could easily escalate into the thousands; and the cost of prenatal care plus delivery for an uncomplicated pregnancy is nearly $10,000. According to a recent report by the United Way, nearly one-third of Manatee County residents are a paycheck away from poverty, or even homelessness. So for many, quality health care is truly out of reach.

This challenge transcends race, age and community. The consequences of inaction are grave: Overcrowded emergency rooms, increased burden on taxpayers, decreased productivity in the workforce, a healthy and thriving community replaced by one that is sick and decaying.

Where can the poor and uninsured go for medical care? Last year, We Care Manatee delivered more than $1.3 million worth of medical care to qualifying low-income, uninsured County residents. Since 1999, We Care Manatee has provided free medical care to thousands, saving those served and Manatee County taxpayers over $7 million in donated care. We could not have accomplished this without the dedication of our volunteer physicians, local medical professionals who are known and trusted in this community.

If you are concerned about the long-term consequences of this challenge, I urge you to visit the We Care Manatee website. Find out how you can help us do more.

We often refer to this area as “paradise.” If that is so, let’s envision a community where all our neighbors have access to quality health care. Please join me in making that future a reality.
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