CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The newly passed health care reform law will expand access to health insurance for an estimated 32 million Americans by 2019, including many Tennesseans currently without coverage. However, even with this expansion of coverage there is and will be a need to focus on the health care needs of those who remain uninsured.

In response to the continued need of this population as well as those without adequate coverage, the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Community Trust will hold its sixth annual Uninsured Health Care Best Practices Forum. The forum, which is designed to address potential ways to care for the uninsured within Tennessee’s volunteer health care clinic arena, will take place Friday, April 30, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at BlueCross’s corporate headquarters in Chattanooga. Currently there are 25 clinics across Tennessee that treat the under- and uninsured for free or at a reduced cost.

“The health insurance industry landscape will change significantly under the new health care reform law,” said Calvin Anderson, vice president of federal and community relations for BlueCross. “Through this forum, we hope that questions can be answered regarding what it means for the under-and uninsured and how to expand and improve the delivery of care to this facet of the population, especially in today’s challenging economic environment.”

An estimated 47 million people, including nine million children, are living without health care coverage in the U.S. Here in Tennessee nearly 1.7 million people went without health insurance for six months or longer between 2007 and 2008.

The absence of these citizens 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, 8 percent of American families’ 2009 health care premiums, or approximately $1,100 a year, was due to covering the medical costs of the uninsured.

Guest panelists for the forum include Rosemary Mould Ertel, director of the Diabetes and Nutrition Center at Memorial Health Care Systems; Margaret Hale, executive director of Partners for Healing; and Chris Hunter, CEO of OnLife Health.

Dr. Lisa M. Klesges, professor and director of the University of Memphis’ School of Public Health, will be the featured speaker for the event.

Topics to be discussed include health care reform, wellness and prevention programs, and grant management, among others. The forum focus will be on working relationships among participants, the organization of outreach and advocacy programs, and finding innovative methods of financing health care for the uninsured.

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 (423) 535-7163.

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.