Cover the Uninsured Week Marked by Art Auction
OMAHA, Neb. — Every night, an average of 50 uninsured patients come through the Emergency Departments of Alegent Health. They are in crisis, in need of help and often can’t pay. Every night, the doctors and nurses of Alegent health calm the crisis and provide the care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. It is not merely a matter of law – it is a matter of Mission – Alegent Health’s mission to provide high quality health care for the mind, body and spirit of every person. As a result, Alegent Health provided more than $16 million in charity care to more than 29,000 people.
They are people like 58-year-old Shirley Lemm of Beemer, Neb. She knows all too well the cost of living without health coverage. A year-and-a-half ago, Lemm began struggling with severe knee problems. She knew she needed major surgery but she couldn’t get it because she didn’t have health insurance. She went to four doctors and got turned down four times.
“I could barely walk, the pain was bad. I couldn’t qualify for disability or Medicaid because I worked too much and made too much money. I was near my wits end and couldn’t see a way out, and needed help to get back on my feet, literally,” recalls Lemm.
Then she called Alegent Health’s financial assistance program to see if she qualified for some kind of financial aid. “Shirley called us desperate for the care she needed,” said Trent Booher, operations leader of Alegent Health’s Revenue Cycle. “She gave us the information we needed about her financial situation. We recognized that she did have a need and we approved 100 percent financial assistance for a total knee replacement for Shirley.”
“I sat down in my chair and cried when they told me they would pay for knee surgery on my right knee,” said Shirley.
Her story is repeated over and over every day in Nebraska where 201,000 working class families are living either uninsured or underinsured. “Cover the Uninsured Week”, April 27- May 3, is aimed at drawing attention to the 47-million working class Americans- including nine million children- living without health insurance.
Understanding that charity care can only go so far, Alegent Health teamed up with the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce to raise money for the uninsured through the O! Public Art Project. Twenty-four talented artists created 22 O!’s, which have graced Omaha’s parks and public spaces throughout the community. Those works of art will be auctioned off online at a live event on May 1. The proceeds raised from both auctions will benefit the Behavioral Health Support Foundation, a non-profit organization created to offer support and care of the uninsured/underinsured who also face a mental health crisis.
“The O! Public Art Project has been a great community project because it’s infused health and wellness, art and community spirit,” said Wayne Sensor, CEO of Alegent Health. “But the fact is that one in four families in Nebraska suffers from mental health abuse. Combined with the thousands that go without health insurance both in our community and nationally, we have decided to help both causes by donating the proceeds from the sale of the O!s to this very worthwhile cause.”
For Lemm, the experience has been marked by the lows of pain and rejection and the highs of finding the care she needed by an organization that was able and willing to help.
“These people are angels. They saved my life.”
About Alegent Health
Alegent Health is the largest not-for-profit, faith-based health care system in Nebraska and southwestern Iowa with nine acute care hospitals, more than 100 sites of service, over 1,300 physicians on its medical staff and 9,000 employees. Alegent Health is making healthcare better with an exceptional commitment to quality and by providing patient focused care for the body, mind and spirit of every person consistent with its faith-based mission. Alegent Health continues the health ministry begun by its sponsors, Catholic Health Initiatives and Immanuel Health Systems, more than a hundred years ago. At Alegent Health, patients and their families find a continuum of care, from women's and children's services, primary care, wellness counseling, and senior care to cardiovascular services, orthopaedics, oncology, physical rehabilitation, home care and behavioral health.