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PUBLISHED: 4:39 PM on Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Fishermen falling through the cracks in health care, insurance
United Fishermen of Alaska, a trade association representing 36 Alaska commercial fishing organizations, released a study today that shows that many Alaska commercial fishermen fall through the cracks when it comes to access to health care and health insurance coverage - but would likely have lower than expected health care costs were health care services and insurance more available.

The group found that Alaska fishing permit holders are almost four times more likely than other Alaskans to live in a community without a hospital and are less likely to carry health insurance - especially in rural areas where alternate employment opportunities with medical benefits are not available.

In these same areas, transportation to medical services adds to the burden.

However, UFA staff research and analysis indicates that Alaska fishermen, with a diet rich in seafood and regular exercise coupled with levels of tobacco use and obesity that appear to be significantly lower than the general population, health care needs would be lower than average.

The study also indicates that health insurance options for fishermen are limited and vary by location.

Those who are residents of Alaska are further challenged because the state overall is served by far fewer private insurance companies offering individual or small business medical insurance than other states and has the highest health care costs in the nation.

"Lack of health insurance is a significant barrier to entry for the next generation of commercial fishermen. As the fleet continues to 'gray', there is ultimately a threat to domestic seafood harvest and communities that depend on fishing businesses," said UFA President Joe Childers.

"UFA will continue to seek opportunities for additional research to define the issues, and funding to address the problem of access to health care and health insurance for all Alaska fishermen."

For the complete UFA health care paper see http://www.ufa-fish.org/doc/healthcare2007.pdf .


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