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Miami diabetics 'ground zero' for troubled Jackson Health

The Miami Herald, November 1, 2011

At an Overtown clinic, Freida James sits glumly looking at four pill bottles: two for diabetes, one for blood pressure, one for cholesterol. All the bottles are empty. The cost to fill them: $360 a month. James has no insurance. She lost her job. "I don't know what to do," she says. James comes monthly to the clinic's meeting room to talk with a dozen others about the difficulties they face handling diabetes. They are the kind of patients who, without basic out-patient treatment, would likely wind up as part of a $550 million-a-year charity effort that has put severe pressure on taxpayer-financed Jackson Health System. They are poor. Many are uninsured. If they eat right, monitor their blood sugar levels and take some basic medications, they can lead normal lives. If they don't take these steps, they are likely to end up in Jackson Memorial Hospital for extended stays at huge cost to Miami-Dade's safety-net system, which has lost more $400 million the past three years.