MetroHealth provides free managed health care for thousands of uninsured Cuyahoga County residents

CLEVELAND - Mike Bole didn't have health insurance when he landed in the emergency room with a heart attack last year.

"The medical bill was $130,000 alone," he said.

Hundreds of thousands of Ohio residents are in the same boat, unable to afford health insurance. But starting in October, they will be able to shop for affordable coverage in the health insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

Bole has found an alternative. He's one of 20,000 Cuyahoga County residents enrolled in Care Plus at MetroHealth Medical Center.  He gets regular check-ups with a family physician who can provide preventive care as well as manage his heart condition or any other chronic illnesses.

"Without this health care I would probably be dead," he said, 'because I'm on a lot of heart medications that cost hundreds of dollars. It's crazy."

Care Plus is an extension of Medicaid. The patients don't pay for anything.

Dr. James Misak, associate director of Family Medicine at the MetroHealth System's Center for Community Health, said while Care Plus is not part of the Affordable Care Act, it's an example of what expanded health coverage will look like.

"More people getting care, staying healthy and managing chronic conditions," he said.

Misak estimates that more than 40,000 Americans die each year from a lack of health insurance leading to a lack of treatment for their chronic medical problems.

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