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Doctor says State Fair can be costly for hospital

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

The State Fair means different things to different people.

To you, it probably means fried food and great rides.

For a local hospital, it can mean a busy week treating carnival workers. And one doctor WNCN spoke to said you could be the one paying the bill.

 Dr. Collen Casey, an emergency room physician at Rex Hospital, said the fair can mean unpaid medical bills for the hospital.

Casey said the bills add up "to thousands and thousands of dollars, in medical care both for the ER as well as hospital."

Casey said every State Fair has uninsured carnival workers who walk down Blue Ridge Road to Rex, requesting necessary medical care.

"When they are in town, they're people who haven't had dialysis for a month who should have been getting it three times a week," Casey said.

 One worker at the State Fair, Lisa Terry, said, "With the travel and stuff they probably think it is just not going to catch up with them - which is ignorant."

Many carnival workers do travel, and up to eight months a year. Medical care, especially for those who are uninsured, can take a back seat.

State Fair worker Beth Grant said, "Our boss makes sure we are covered or he will help us pay it."

Grant said she didn't know of people who went to the hospital and skipped out of the bill. And several other carnival workers told WNCN they'd never skipped on a medical payment. For example, carnival worker Rebecca Hook said she has insurance through Medicaid and the Outdoor Business Association.

But they also weren't shocked to hear that a local doctor said it happens.

State Fair worker Rusty English said, "It could be true. It's possible. There are a lot of Americans who skip out on their medical bills because it costs so much."

But the workers who spoke to WNCN said they hope a few bad apples doesn't spoil anyone's image of the State Fair.

And Powers Great American Midways, which provides the rides for the State Fair, told WNCN that health insurance is available for full-time employees. But the majority of its workers are sub-contractors, meaning they're responsible for health care.

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