A 52-year-old single man lives alone, has diabetes, neuropathy, a foot ulcer, symptoms of depression, no means of transportation and no health insurance. He needs access to medical care. A 30-year-old man with a bone disease and no insurance relies on the Emergency Department for care. He needs access to medical care. Two women—one 49 years old and the other 50 years old—who both weigh more than 220 pounds, need access to medical care.
These are some examples of the patients Lee Memorial Health System serves—in our four Emergency Departments and in our Lee Physician Group Dunbar and North Fort Myers United Way Houses.
For these patients and so many others, the best place to get the right care is in a primary care office, but without insurance, many use the ED to get the care they need without fear of being turned away. Most of these individuals have jobs, but not health insurance.
When we opened the Lee Physician Group United Way Houses, we hoped that these clinics would become a medical home for Medicaid, Medicare, underinsured and uninsured people in our community. While we are very proud of the high quality, compassionate, patient-centered care provided, since the clinics opened only about 5 percent of our Lee Physician Group United Way House patients have Medicaid, and only about 2 percent have Medicare.
Our initial forecast when creating the clinics was that more than 50 percent of patients would have Medicaid or Medicare coverage, but in reality most are uninsured. Many have jobs, but many are adults without children, who are not poor enough for Medicaid or sick enough for the Medically Needy program. These people—the working poor—need access to medical care.
The need is great. Our Lee Physician Group United Way Houses are booked three to five months in advance. And, a third location in Cape Coral will open later this spring. But this is not enough to assure medical support, and at the same time the Florida legislature may choose to forgo significant federal funds to provide financial support for these hard-working Floridians.
Our two male and two female patients mentioned above get the primary care they need to stay out of the hospital; they were prescribed and take the appropriate medication, they have started exercising, they have lost weight and have better control over their health conditions. They are success stories, but there are tens of thousands of adults in our community who need this same type of care.
We believe the right care needs to be available at the right time and in the right place. We believe in the expansion of subsidized health coverage for these adults in need, and for the health of our entire community. We have an unprecedented opportunity to provide coverage for these and many more uninsured people using the tax dollars that the people of Southwest Florida have already paid.
A community looks out for each other. Together, we must let our elected officials know that we need coverage expansion.
This Teaming-UpDate message to our talented and dedicated team that provides care to our community every day and night is to ask for your help to contact our political leaders to let them know that we are listening to and fighting for our community. Please take the time to contact the following leaders to let them know that the hard-working people of Southwest Florida need help and that coverage expansion using tax funds already going to Washington should be leveraged back to our state and community. Please contact:
- Senator Lizbeth Benaquisto – 850-487-5030 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Senator Garrett Richter – 850-487-5023 or email@example.com
- Representative Heather Fitzenhagen – 850-717-5078 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Representative Dane Eagle – 850-717-5077 or email@example.com
- Representative Matt Caldwell – 850-717-5079 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Representative Ray Rodriquez – 850-717-5076 or email@example.com
Let’s remind our elected officials that the money for health coverage expansion is the people’s money, not the federal government’s money, and it needs to come back to the people of Southwest Florida. For more information, go to www.LeeMemorial.org and click on Florida Health News or click here to find a letter from our Lee Memorial Health System Board of Directors to legislators, talking points and other valuable data. Please remind the members of the Florida legislature that only they can make this happen, and the time for action is now!
For all the people who get appropriate and timely health care, there are tens of thousands of people who do not. We hope that coverage will expand so the hard-working people in our community get the care they need and deserve.
Thank you for your support and thank you for being caring people, caring for people.
President, Lee Memorial Health System