Hopeful for Healthcare resolution

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 4, 2005

DEMOPOLIS-A group of 12 Black Belt citizens met Tuesday afternoon to have a roundtable discussion about the lack of affordable healthcare in the area.

Dr. Jerry Ingram of Southeast Research, Inc., led the discussion that was held at the Demopolis Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s a cost situation,” Ingram said. “We are trying to find insurance products that are not as expensive as the plans bigger companies use.”

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Ingram said he met with area small business employers in Livingston around noon Tuesday to look at products they can afford and help their employees with.

He said the employers had a need for healthcare insurance products to assist smaller businesses.

“We looked at some products I think they liked,” Ingram said. “Some business owners didn’t know about some of the plans I went over and they were taking notes.”

According to Ingram, the employees and their employers see the same problem with healthcare in the Black Belt.

“Their wages are so low they just can’t afford some insurance products like the traditional Blue Cross/Blue Shield,” he said.

Ingram presented to employees a savings plan in which each employee would be required to put money away every month for healthcare.

“The plan has a high deductible,” Ingram said. He said the plan issues checks and debit cards to pay the deductible and then will pay the remaining amount.

“These people are trapped,” Ingram said. “Job opportunities aren’t there and having to be paid minimum wage, they can’t afford health insurance.”

Ingram said more than half the people who participated in the survey had outstanding healthcare bills totaling over $6,000 per person.

After the main discussion, Liz Todd and Diane Abernathy from AllKids, spoke to participants about children’s health insurance.

“Although it’s not directly for you, it can still help you out,” Abernathy told participants.

“I am glad the Black Belt Action Committee along with the Alabama Department of health is trying to do something about the problem, and may be designing a program that could be more affordable,” he said.

Until then Ingram said he will continue to “publicize, inform, and educate people of the programs that are already out there.”