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Friends in Need serves working underinsured

May 11th, 2012 8:36 am by Staff Report

Friends in Need serves working underinsured

Currently, Friends in Need has approximately 1,200 patients.

By Katina Rose

There are times when our friends and neighbors are in need of affordable medical and dental care.

It is easy to assume that an individual has medical insurance because they are employed, but that is not always the case in society. There are many people and families without coverage because of part-time employment, an employer may not offer benefits, or because they are self-employed.

It was because of these contributing factors that Friends in Need was formed 17 years ago to serve the working underinsured families in Hawkins and Sullivan Counties in Tennessee and Scott County in Virginia.

In order to benefit from the medical and dental services offered by Friends in Need, it is necessary to live in one of the three mentioned counties, show proof of work and the number of people in your household.

"All of this information should be included on a standard tax form," said Mark Smelser, executive director of Friends in Need.

"If anyone in the household is working, the entire household is eligible for services, as long as they are over the age of 18 and claimed as dependents on tax forms," said Smelser. "We do not have any services for pediatrics."

Adult dental care only is provided for individuals on TennCare, Disability or Medicaid/Medicare.

Full-time students can also benefit from Friends in Need and need only to bring in school transcripts to determine eligibility.

Currently, Friends in Need has approximately 1,200 patients with 500 of those consistently changing because of a full-time job opportunity or a change in disability status.

"Our hope is that they are moving on because of the services we are giving them. We want them to stay active and productive in their community and receive a better job with health insurance," said Smelser.

Friends in Need enrolls new patients on Monday afternoons and Wednesday mornings, and new participants need to bring all required paperwork. This includes a driver's license, social security card, tax income statement, proof of residence and last two pay stubs.

Providing this valuable service to working adults and their households also requires donations and many volunteers. There is one full-time dentist and two part-time physicians, along with numerous volunteers from the medical community. Friends in Need does provide comprehensive medical and dental care.

For additional information on Friends in Need, call 423-246-0010, email or visit the website at

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