Governor Rendell Says Passage of PA ABC Would Help More Than 36,000 Uninsured Citizens Living in the Lehigh Valley

ALLENTOWN, Pa., May 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Edward G. Rendell said today that there are more than 36,000 uninsured adults in Lehigh and Northampton counties -- nearly 5,000 of whom are on a waiting list to receive health care coverage -- who urgently need the state Senate to approve a plan to help them gain access to health insurance.

"Hundreds of thousands of uninsured Pennsylvania adults live with the very real fear that a sudden illness could lead to unnecessary suffering and even bankruptcy," the Governor said. "In addition, for the businesses and individuals struggling to make ends meet while continuing to pay hefty insurance premiums, continued lack of action in adopting a program to cover the uninsured means ever-increasing health care costs."

The Governor was in Allentown to participate in Sacred Heart Hospital's "Cover the Uninsured Day," which was part of "National Cover the Uninsured Week." He joined Allentown Mayor Ed Pawloski and Sacred Heart Hospital CEO Frank Sparandero, MD, in discussing the plight of the uninsured and calling for passage of Pennsylvania Access to Basic Care (PA ABC), a health care plan that would be offered through the private market and subsidized by state and federal government for small, low-wage businesses without insurance and uninsured individuals.

The Governor said a recent study that showed a decrease in the total number of employers providing health insurance in Pennsylvania is especially troublesome. Between 2000 and 2006, more workers in Pennsylvania lost employer-provided health insurance than workers in any other state, except California.

"Public opinion polls show increasing anxiety about the current health system, as more employers shed coverage benefits and premium costs outpace inflation each year," Governor Rendell said. "If the remaining key components of the Prescription for Pennsylvania are not enacted, especially ABC and the insurance reforms, even more working Pennsylvanians are likely to lose coverage.

"A story in the New York Times just this week said a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that in the last year, 42 percent of Americans said they or a family member postponed or skipped treatment, did not fill a prescription, cut pills in half or skipped doses, or had problems getting mental health care because they had difficulties affording health care," the Governor said. "That statistic is stunning."

As the cost of health care has soared 75 percent over the past five years, and wages have only risen 13 percent, thousands of Pennsylvanians are struggling to provide health insurance coverage for their families. According to an Insurance Department study, there are 767,000 uninsured adults in Pennsylvania. Some 70 percent of the uninsured cite cost as the main reason for not having health insurance coverage. Bringing down the cost of coverage would help individuals and small businesses who desperately need coverage.

"The vast majority of Pennsylvania's uninsured adults have full-time jobs and many are employed by small businesses. Most workers earn low wages and do not have access to health insurance because of the high cost of premiums for businesses and individuals. The Pennsylvania Access to Basic Care program is an essential step towards solving these problems," said Governor Rendell.

The Governor said 71 percent of uninsured adults in Pennsylvania are employed, 76 percent of uninsured adults have household incomes of less than $60,000 for a family of four and 27 percent of uninsured adults have been without health care coverage for more than five years.

Families USA released a study that estimates that approximately 710 working-age Pennsylvanians died as a result of lacking health care in 2006, which is nearly two people every day. Nationally, the lack of health insurance was responsible for twice as many deaths as homicide in 2006.

Prescription for Pennsylvania is Governor Rendell's plan to: ensure access to affordable health insurance for all Pennsylvanians; expand access to health care; improve the quality of care; and help bring health care costs under control for employers and workers. PA ABC is the health insurance plan set forth by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, which builds on the Governor's Prescription for Pennsylvania proposal. It passed the House in March with bi-partisan support.

Health coverage under PA ABC will be offered through private insurance companies. Employers can participate if they have not offered health care coverage to their employees for at least six months, if they have 50 or fewer employees and, if, on average, these employees earn less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $31,200 per year.

All uninsured adults in Pennsylvania - no matter what their employment status or income level - will be able to purchase affordable health insurance through this program at the same premium rate the commonwealth pays. In addition, an individual from a family of four that earns up to $42,400 a year will receive help from the state in paying part of his or her PA ABC premium.

"It isn't only the uninsured consumer who pays a price," the Governor said. "About 6.5 percent of insurance premiums paid by businesses and individuals goes just to cover the cost of health care for the uninsured. As a result, every Pennsylvanian pays the cost of having an inadequate health care system."

For more information on the Governor's Prescription for Pennsylvania, go to www.rxforpa.com.

The Rendell administration is committed to creating a first-rate public education system, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and continuing economic investment to support our communities and businesses. To find out more about Governor Rendell's initiatives and to sign up for his weekly newsletter, visit: www.governor.state.pa.us.

* Figures derived from the 2004 Health Insurance Survey conducted by Market Decisions LLC for the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.

CONTACT:

Chuck Ardo

717-783-1116

Amy Kelchner GOHCR

717-346-8379

SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor

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