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Fair Chance At Staying Healthy

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For the 900,000 Pennsylvanians without health insurance, everyday events can be fraught with peril ... a chance slip could mean a broken bone, huge ER bills and a never-ending payment plan. But there are insurance alternatives, and on Thurs., April 27, a health-care fair and zine-release party at the Quiet Storm in Garfield will bring several of them together.

 

The party is tied to national Cover the Uninsured Week, which starts April 29. Having the fair at the Quiet Storm, with free beer and music, is a way to reach out to the info's target audience: young adults.

 

"Insurance is tied so much to employment," says Janice Meinert, a paralegal with Pennsylvania Health Law Project, a Downtown health-care access advocacy group that will be at the fair. "Because the insurance is getting more and more expensive, employers are either not offering it or offering benefits that are not affordable." Project officials will hand out materials about accessing public insurance like state Medical Assistance and the Children's Health Insurance Program, which offer comprehensive free or low-cost insurance for low-income families. They will also talk about using low-cost clinics.

 

The Consumer Health Coalition, another Downtown group working for health-care access, will focus more on helping people make the best of insurance they already have.

 

"It'll be about how to make changes in the health-policy system so that your insurance is better for yourself," says Leslie Bachurski, Coalition operations manager.

 

Both groups will offer advice on dealing with hospital bills, and help enroll party-goers who qualify into low-cost prescription and insurance plans.

 

Other groups at the fair will be the Birch Center, a South Side acupuncture and massage clinic, and the Midwife Center, which provides prenatal and gynecological care in the Strip District. The Big Idea Infoshop will have books and zines about health-care options, and Healcrest Urban Gardens will promote herbal remedies.

 

Event organizer and zine author Jude Vachon began compiling the zine when she had to navigate the hospital system without insurance. She says she figured others might as well benefit from her experience. Her zine, titled Be Well! Healthcare Option for the Uninsured, includes resources on topic such as: sliding-scale clinics, alternative health care, low-cost prescriptions, Spanish-speaking providers and reproductive care. It will eventually be available in 18 area locations, and Vachon hopes to reach more communities, including blacks, Hispanics and people ages 18-35. She also plans a companion Web site.

 

"There's this big gap," Vachon says. "Even people who would qualify for medical assistance or kids who could get CHIP aren't getting it. It's an issue of access to information."

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