MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As the economy worsens, the number of unemployed and uninsured grows. Many of these newly uninsured Americans are turning to volunteer-based health clinics for their health care needs.

Here in Tennessee, the BlueCross BlueShield Community Trust is working to address the increasing demand on these clinics for free or reduced-cost care by holding its fifth annual Uninsured Health Care Best Practices Forum. The event takes place Friday, April 17, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will be held at the Church Health Center’s Hope and Healing Center, located at 1115 Union Avenue.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 883,000 Tennesseans who went without health care coverage during 2007. The Uninsured Health Care Forum is designed to explore ways of better serving this population.

“Tennessee’s volunteer-based clinics play a very significant role in our state’s health care safety net,” said Calvin Anderson, vice president of federal and community relations for BlueCross. “Through this forum, we hope that solutions can be found to expand and improve the delivery of care to the under and uninsured, especially in today’s challenging economic environment.”

The absence of the uninsured from the health care system not only creates disparities for these individuals along with negative health outcomes, but it also impacts the cost of care for all those insured. According to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, eight percent of American families’ 2009 health care premiums, or approximately $1,100 a year, is due to covering the medical costs of the uninsured.

Dr. Scott Morris, executive director of Church Health Center, will be the featured speaker for the event.

Guest panelists for the forum include Traci Warner, RNP of the Faith Family Medical Clinic in Nashville; Dr. Debbie Allen, medical director for InterFaith Health Clinic in Knoxville; and Dr. Ted Hill, medical director for Salvus Center in Gallatin, among others.

Topics to be discussed cover clinical operations, changing policies, health care reform, current quality and affordability challenges in the industry and access to care.

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, health foundation and 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.