CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will kick off Cover the Uninsured Week on Friday, April 25, with its fourth annual Best Practices Forum on Uninsured Health Care.

The forum, designed to address potential ways to care for the uninsured within Tennessee’s volunteer health care clinic arena, will be held in Chattanooga at the Hamilton County Health Department. It is sponsored by the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Community Trust.

“There are an estimated 809,000 Tennesseans without health insurance and their absence from the health care system not only impacts the cost of care for all of us, but it also creates disparities in health quality and outcomes,” said Calvin Anderson, vice president of federal and community relations. “This forum is a great vehicle for sharing ideas and seeking solutions for the growing ranks of the uninsured.”

Families USA, an organization which advocates affordable health care, reports that by 2010 families with private, employer-sponsored coverage in Tennessee will pay an average of $1,299 more in insurance premiums as a result of uncompensated care for the uninsured. Individuals will pay an additional $422.

Additionally Families USA reports that in 2006, approximately 676 Tennesseans died as a result of not having insurance coverage. Nationally, the Institutes of Medicine estimate 18,000 deaths nationally per year are attributable to a lack of insurance.

Currently, there are more than 15 volunteer-based clinics across the state providing annual care to thousands of under- and uninsured Tennesseans.

Representatives from the volunteer clinics will join with attendees from the health care, government, business, religious and academic sectors to participate in the forum. Conference topics include: caring for diverse populations, electronic medical records and operation and sustainability.

According to Nancy Franks, president and founder of the Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) Clinic in Chattanooga, the Best Practices Forum on Uninsured Health Care allows participants to share their successes and challenges in providing and sustaining quality and affordable care to the uninsured.

“We appreciate the opportunity to learn from other frontline providers as well as those parties vested in the uninsured crisis,” Franks said. “Addressing the needs of the uninsured and expanding access to care is an issue that needs to involve the collaboration and dedication of everyone. The more we work together on the problem, the more impact we’ll have.”

Featured speakers and panelists for the Best Practices Forum on Uninsured Health Care include keynote speaker Dr. Andrea Willis, director of CoverKids; BlueCross President and CEO, Vicky Gregg; Jack Ericksen, vice president of federal relations for BlueCross BlueShield Association; Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey; Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield; Sam Venable, humor columnist with the Knoxville News Sentinel; and Dr. Valerie Boaz, health officer with the Hamilton County Health Department.

The day-long forum is free to individuals who work or volunteer at facilities or in groups that serve the health care needs of Tennessee’s uninsured. For more information or to register, visit www.bcbst.com or contact Kathy Bingham, community relations manager for BlueCross, at (901) 544-2078.

About BlueCross

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's mission is to provide its customers and communities with peace of mind through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on reinventing the health plan for its 3 million members in Tennessee and across the country. Through its integrated health management approach, BlueCross provides patient-centric products and services that drive health improvement and positively impact health care quality and value. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company's website at www.bcbst.com.