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Tri-Lakes Uninsured Task Force finds new momentum

SARANAC LAKE President Bush doesnt want to leave any children behind. So why is he making it so hard for state governments to obtain federal support for childrens insurance programs? Ann Morgan, program coordinator for the Tri-Lakes Uninsured Task Force, can only speculate as to why the Bush Administration has introduced a number of arbitrary requirements that have blocked states like New York from acquiring child healthcare funds. However, Morgans job isnt to speculate. Since 2001, the Task Force has worked toward its goal of making sure every resident of the Tri-Lakes has health coverage. Up until February 2008, the organizations work has been carried out by a number of representatives from various local businesses and agencies that volunteered their time. Thanks to a grant procured by the New York State Health Foundation, the Task Force was able to fund a full-time position that would handle the agencys day-to-day operation, thus relieving the extra burden placed on volunteers. In early February, the Task Force welcomed Morgan as its new program coordinator. Her job is to inform Tri-Lake residents of the various options they have for acquiring healthcare. Basically, the Task Force was a coming together of various agencies that were concerned with the issue of the uninsured, said Morgan. Since its inception about seven years ago, the number of Tri-Lakers without insurance has decreased steadily. In fact, the number of insured Tri-Lake residents has risen every year since 2001. In 2003, 85.1 percent of people living in Saranac Lake, Lake Placid and Tupper Lake had health insurance; by 2005, that number had jumped to nearly 90 percent, with an increase in childrens coverage of 1.8 percent. According to Morgan, the Task Force played a vital role in those increases. The Task Force hosted a good amount of health screenings, she explained. A person sits down directly with a health care facilitator, and based on personal and family resources, the facilitated enroller can determine whether or not the individual or the family is eligible for one of the publicly funded health insurance programs. Those programs, Morgan added, include Family Health Plus, Healthy New York, and ValuMed Plus, to name a few. Between April 28 and May 8, Morgan spoke at a number of events throughout the Tri-Lakes as part of the national Cover the Uninsured Week. She aimed her sessions at local business representatives and explained the various ways that employers can provide insurance to their workers. The Task Force has a heavy focus on the business community, she added. We want to help them overcome the barriers they have in providing health care. The sessions, which ended Thursday, also featured health screenings for residents interested in obtaining insurance. Just doing these insurance screenings makes my job worth is, said Morgan. To know that were reaching people that need and deserve health insurance, it is a great feeling. Did you know? Child Health Plus provides a multitude of benefits, including preventative care, hospital care and prescription drugs. There are no deductibles or co-pays under Child Health Plus. AMC has a Charity Care policy for residents without insurance. To learn more about the policy and its eligibility requirements, visit www.amcCares.org To speak to a facilitated enroller, call 897-2725.

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