Thursday, May 7, 2009

Clinics offer free or low cost healthcare for uninsured

WKRN News Channel 2 Posted: May 5, 2009 08:59 AM CDT Even for the employed, health insurance is becoming a luxury and many, trying to save money in the down economy, are skipping routine doctor visits. Dr. Robert Cranfield, a physician at Tennessee Urgent Care, which has four Mid-State locations in Antioch, Smyrna, Rivergate and on White Bridge Road, says the growing trend is a dangerous one. "A lot of people are just holding back on coming for routine healthcare," he told News 2. "They're going to try and wait it out and see if things will get better, or for better economic times." Dr. Cranfield believes while basic healthcare can be affordable for the uninsured, overcrowded emergency rooms continue to show the uninsured are using hospitals for primary care because they know they won't be turned away if they're unable to pay upfront. There are several area clinics, however, that offer healthcare options for free or at reduced costs. Dr. Cranfield said statistics show urgent care centers are about 60% less than going to an emergency room for your healthcare. At Tennessee Urgent Care, a routine visit costs between $100 and $180 and customers paying in cash can get a 20% discount. Additionally, there are programs for the uninsured through nonprofit organizations. St. Thomas Health Systems, for example, offers clinics that base fees on a sliding scale, depending on your income and several major drug stores, like Walgreens and CVS, offer clinics where patients can see a nurse practitioner for as little as $50. In Davidson County, uninsured residents can sign up for Bridges to Care, a program funded by Catholic charities that links enrollees to a network of doctors based on the patient's ability to pay. "It may not be full cover insurance, but at least you have that primary care doctor you can go to instead of going to the emergency room," said Holly Sanchez with Bridges to Care. "As long as you're uninsured and live in Davison County, we're happy to sign you up." "You're general health is extremely important and doesn't need to wait for better economic times," said Dr. Cranfield. "You've got to make sure that you do keep up with your routine healthcare."

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