Columbia St. Mary's Leads Local Efforts for Cover the Uninsured Week

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Milwaukee, Wis., April 20, 2005—Columbia St. Mary’s will again lead events in southeastern Wisconsin to call attention to the issues facing Americans without health insurance as part of a national campaign, Cover the Uninsured Week, May 1–8. The week is intended to sensitize the public to the plight of the 45 million Americans—including 8 million children—who lack health care coverage.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and 18 national organizations and foundations cosponsor Cover the Uninsured Week, along with a diverse group of organizations representing business, education, labor, health care professionals and insurers, consumers, faith leaders, sports, and the entertainment industry. Noah Wyle of the television drama "ER" will again serve as the national spokesperson for the week, which is co-chaired by former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

In addition to Columbia St. Mary’s, other local sponsors of the week are the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Hospital Association, Partnerships for Healthy Milwaukee, Covenant Healthcare, Aurora Health Care, Milwaukee Archdiocese, Milwaukee Medical Society, and IMPACT, Inc.

Uninsured Americans represent every race, age, and ethnic group, and eight out of 10 uninsured Americans either work or are in working families. Being uninsured means going without needed care, and minor illnesses can become major ones because care is delayed. It also means that one significant medical expense can wipe out a family's savings.

As the price of health care continues to rise, fewer individuals and families can afford to pay for coverage. Fewer small businesses are able to provide coverage for their employees, and those that do are struggling to hold on to the coverage they offer. It’s a problem that affects all of us.

In Wisconsin (2003), an estimated 284,000 people were insured during part of the past year and uninsured part of the year; 212,000 had no insurance coverage.* The proportion without health insurance coverage for the entire year was higher among Hispanic residents than among non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic African-Americans, or people of two or more races. It was also higher among poor residents (11%) and near-poor (8%) residents, than among non-poor (2%) residents. Nine percent of Wisconsin children (ages 0–17) living in poor households, and 13% of children in near-poor households were uninsured for part or all of 2003, as compared to 3% of children in non-poor households.

Younger adults in Wisconsin (ages 18–44) were more likely to be uninsured (11%) than other age groups (2003). African-American and Hispanic adults ages 18–64 were more likely to be uninsured than were white adults of the same age. Among children, non-Hispanic blacks were about as likely to be insured as non-Hispanic whites (97% and 96%, respectively).

"In addition to providing care to all who come through our doors, Columbia St. Mary's sees our role as increasing awareness among community leaders about the magnitude and implications of this growing problem," said Leo P. Brideau, President & CEO of Columbia St. Mary's. "Columbia St. Mary's sees itself as a piece of the solution. Ultimately, solving this problem will require the efforts of the entire local, statewide, and national community."

Local activities planned for Cover the Uninsured Week:

Tuesday, May 3, and Wednesday, May 4—Columbia St. Mary’s will raise awareness of the uninsured through health information days for employees.

Wednesday, May 4—Academic Leaders from Marquette University, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Center for the Study of Bioethics, Concordia University Bioethics Institute, and professionals in the bioethics field from Aurora Health Care, Covenant Healthcare, and the Wisconsin Health Project will engage Paul Brodwin, PhD, an anthropologist from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on the topic of “Inequality and Health: The Social Costs of the Medical Insurance Crisis.” The conference will be held at the Italian Community Center, Grand Ballroom, 5:30 to 7 p.m., with a reception afterwards.

Thursday, May 5—Interfaith Prayer Breakfast at Cardinal Stritch University—Religious leaders, legislators, politicians, and business leaders have been invited to learn about resources available for people without health insurance. The Rev. Kenneth Wheeler, Assistant to the Bishop, Milwaukee Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, will present the keynote talk on “The Tie That Binds Us.” The breakfast will be held from 7:30 to 10 a.m. at Cardinal Stritch University. Rabbi Len Lewy will give the opening prayer, and Sr. Mary Lea Schneider, President, Cardinal Stritch, will give welcome the attendees.

Representatives of faith-based community programs will discuss the services they provide to the community and available resources. Other speakers will include Leo P. Brideau, President and CEO of Columbia St. Mary’s; and Bill Bazan, Vice President–Metro Milwaukee, Wisconsin Hospital Association.
Thursday, May 5—Town Hall Meeting. City and county health officials, health system executives, and business leaders will offer brief presentations on issues related to providing care for the uninsured. The meeting will also feature guests from Wichita, Kansas, who will speak about their experience implementing Project Access of the Plains, a volunteer physician network. Since its inception in 1999, this project has provided medical care to more than 4,100 uninsured patients, reducing preventable emergency care rates by more than 82 percent, and saving an estimated $10 million in medical expenses. Guests will include: Joseph Meek, MD, former Dean of the KU School of Medicine; Timothy Norton, Commissioner, Sedgwick County; Patrick Hanrahan, President, United Way of the Plains; and Anne Nelson, Director, Central Plains Regional Health Care Foundation.

This program, sponsored by Partnerships for Health Milwaukee, the Medical Society of Milwaukee County, Columbia St. Mary’s, and the Milwaukee Area Health Education Center, will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at the UWM School of Continuing Education, 161 W. Wisconsin Ave. Proclamations signed by Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, County Executive Scott Walker, and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett for Cover the Uninsured Week will be displayed during this event.

For more information on Cover the Uninsured Week, call Eileen Jaskolski, Vice President of Mission Integration, Columbia St. Mary’s, at 414-326-2657.



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