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Robinwood Medical Center event links uninsured and underinsured to resources

June 10, 2008|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

HAGERSTOWN -- April Benner knows well the trouble of being uninsured. Since March, two of her sisters were laid off from their jobs and lost their health insurance.

Then last week, April's husband, James Benner, 41, of Hagerstown, lost his job of eight years, and along with it, health insurance for the couple and their two young daughters.

The Benners were in a similar situation when Pangborn discontinued manufacturing operations at its Hagerstown facility eight years ago. April Benner, 43, said that her husband found work within a week of losing his job at Pangborn, where he had been employed for 13 years.

This time, things are not working out as smoothly, however.

Although her husband knew the place where he was working might be shutting down and had been looking for another job, "there just isn't anything out there if you are hard-working and unskilled. There is nothing in manufacturing," she said.

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April Benner works part time, but said she does not work enough hours to be eligible for health insurance. Even if she did, she said, she and her husband would not be able to afford the rates.

The Benner's situation was a familiar one to program representatives who participated Monday in Cover the Uninsured Day at Robinwood Medical Center.

Washington County Hospital hosted the event in an effort to provide information and resources to people who are uninsured and underinsured. Participants included the hospital's Patient Financial Services, Washington County Department of Social Services, Maryland Physicians Care and the Medication Assistance Center, formerly known as Medbank.

April Benner said she received helpful information at the event. She said her husband stopped taking some of his health maintenance medications in an effort to save money following his job loss. The couple learned from a Medication Assistance Center representative that they could purchase some prescriptions for $4 at Wal-Mart instead of paying more at their usual pharmacy.

They also learned about financial assistance that is available through Patient Financial Services at Washington County Hospital.

"We are not due for any surgery right now, but you never know what's going to happen," April Benner said.

Carol Weible, senior manager of Washington County Hospital Patient Financial Services, said the hospital provides about $600,000 of financial assistance a month toward hospital bills for people in the community with limited or no insurance.

Tammy Holmes, clinical manager of Integrated Patient Support Services at the hospital, said Maryland has 750,000 nonelderly uninsured residents.

"A lot of people are not aware of benefits or programs they may be eligible for," Holmes said.

Holmes stressed the importance of preventative health care. For example, she said, it is better for an individual to go to the doctor early on and receive a diagnosis of high blood pressure and receive treatment for the condition, than to go without health care and face a medical crisis like a stroke.

"Our goal is to provide quality health care to everyone in the community," Holmes said. "Part of that is getting information out there about programs and resources that are available."

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