Poverty rate increase hits young hard in Mississippi

BILOXI — One in five people in South Mississippi has no health insurance and more than half of them are age 18 or younger.

Census figures released Tuesday showed the increase in poverty rates from 2008 to 2009 corresponded to a decrease in Coast residents with medical insurance.

Those who do have insurance are finding out-of-pocket expenses so prohibitive, they are skipping visits to the doctor or looking for alternative health care, say local medical providers.

For those who are insured the deductible is so high and the co-payments so restrictive. They tell us that’s why they’re here,” said Michele McLeod, assistant medical director at Medical Analysis, a clinic on Beauvoir Road in Biloxi.

A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed between 2000 and 2010, the average premiums for family coverage increased 114 percent while the employee contribution went up 147 percent. Beyond that, the study found patients pay an average of $22 in co-pay to see their family doctor in addition to meeting their yearly deductible.

Carolyn Hamilton of Biloxi is a veteran who was laid off by a Biloxi casino and can’t afford insurance.

“I haven’t been going to the doctor,” she said. But after a week in pain she learned from a friend about the Bethel Free Health Clinic in Biloxi.

“I’ll definitely go there again,” she said. She won’t be able to get insurance until she finds another job, Hamilton said, because it’s hard enough to afford food without a paycheck.

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