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Published: Tuesday, 7/7/2009

Toledo area ranks poorly in some health-care indicators

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

More than a third of working-age adults in Lucas County didn't have jobs. More than a quarter of working-age adults in Williams County lacked health-care coverage.

And nearly 12 percent - about four times the state average - of Hancock County children weren't covered by Medicaid or any other insurance.

Those are just some of the findings from the 2008 Ohio Family Health Survey to be discussed at a forum at St. Luke's Hospital in Maumee Wednesday.

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio survey involved questioning about 51,000 Ohioans between August, 2008, and January, and provides information about issues related to health-care coverage, including employment and education.

For example, although about a quarter of working adults typically don't have jobs for various reasons - early retirement, attending school full time, taking care of their children, or job loss - the rate in Lucas County was 36.3 percent, which is slightly higher than the state average, according to the survey.

"To us, that signals an economic stress that obviously plays a role with coverage," said William Hayes, president of the Health Policy Institute of Ohio.

In all, 19.5 percent of working-age adults in Lucas County did not have health-care coverage, up from 15.8 percent when the survey last was done, in 2004. The statewide average for adults aged 18 to 64 was 17 percent for 2008. In northwest Ohio, only Williams County was higher than Lucas County, at

26. 2 percent.

Hancock County had the state's second-highest rate of uninsured children, 11.8 percent, second only to the 12.4 percent uninsured in Preble County, just east of Dayton, in an area that has been hard hit by manufacturing-job losses.

Although the percentage of uninsured Ohio children decreased to 4 percent from 5.4 percent between 2004 and 2008, some rural counties such as Hancock, have not improved, Mr. Hayes said.

Hancock County's rate of uninsured children jumped to 11.8 percent in 2008 from 2.6 percent in 2004, and its rate of uninsured among working-age adults has increased to 17.1 percent from 11.1 percent, according to the institute.

A majority Republican county, Hancock has had a vibrant local economy centered on Findlay, the county seat, but the area also has a reputation as anti-union, and it has been hit by factory layoffs.

Caughman Health Center in Findlay, which offers health-care services on a sliding-fee scale adjusted for income, and which also accepts insurance, has experienced an increase in the numbers of both children and adults seeking help, said Barb Lockard, spokesman for Blanchard Valley Health System, which owns Caughman.

Patient visits to Caughman more than doubled in 2008 to about 26,000 from the number in 2007, Ms. Lockard said.

Part of the increase stems from Caughman's offering more services, such as adding obstetrics and gynecology in 2007, and part is because of losses of jobs and medical coverage in the area, she said.

"This isn't just children we're seeing a larger increase in," Ms. Lockard said.

In Lucas County, the Toledo-Lucas County CareNet program for uninsured residents also has experienced an increase in requests for help. Much of that is from people who have been laid off, experienced a decrease in working hours, or no longer have health-care coverage through work, said Elizabeth Macino, who arranges specialty appointments for CareNet members.

"There's a different group of people," Ms. Macino said. "Now it's your neighbor."

A forum to discuss survey results, as well as updates on state health-policy developments and the budget, is scheduled from

1 p.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow in St. Luke's auditorium, 5901 Monclova Rd.

Local activities involving health-care access, patient safety, health quality, and other issues also will be discussed.

The forum is free, but participants are asked to visit tinyurl.com/qyffrg to register.

The institute hopes to start conducting annual surveys this year to gather statewide data, with larger studies done every five years, Mr. Hayes said.

"That will let us stay more accurate," Mr. Hayes said. "Things are not static."

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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