Lawrence Forgy, the president of Health Kentucky, says: "The average person's health insurance rates are 12 percent higher because of all the uninsured in this state and in the nation."
Many of those uninsured can't afford to pay for a doctors office visit, so they end up waiting until their condition worsens, then go to the emergency room for treatment of non emergency conditions.
The director of the Emergency Room at the Medical Center says they see about 45 percent of non urgent patients on a day to day basis. Depending on how sick the uninsured are, it can impact the way an ER operates.
Phyllis Prerost, the Emergency Room Director at the Medical Center, says: "In some respects uninsured patients are usually sicker patients. They've had no primary care in advance. They wait longer for interventions. Perhaps when they get to us it's beyond something we can actually take care of."
According Forgy, th ER should be a last resort because it's the most expensive form of medicine being practiced today. Emergency room visits can cost three times as much as a visit to a physician's office.
Forgy says: "And in this state it costs over $500 anytime somebody walks through that door as a patient. And a great percentage of them don't have any insurance."
Prerost says: "When you're talking about a patient that comes to the emergency room opposed to a primary care office, they're not just creating a problem for an overworked emergency room. But they're creating a financial burden either to themselves or to the community to take care of uninsured patients."
If they are unable to pay for the services they receive at the hospital the cost gets carried over to private insurers through higher premiums and higher health costs. Or worse they might have to file bankruptcy.
Prerost says: "Over half of bankruptcies have some medical cost component to it."
With the new bankruptcy laws patients would not be allowed to just walk away from bills they can't pay it could follow them for their lifetime. Something that could perhaps be avoided if they had insurance.
Forgy says: "Because it's that serious a problem. And yet it's that easily solved."
The Medical Center's emergency room director says between 23-25 percent of all the patients they see are totally uninsured. There are cheaper options for the uninsured here in Bowling Green. The Health Department can help with preventative needs. The Fairview Community Center accepts patients without insurance and has a sliding scale for bills. And Urgent Care sees the uninsured.
Tomorrow night we'll talk about how much it can cost to not have insurance to cover medicines needed and meet one family who is struggling financially to take care of their daughter, who they cannot get insurance for.