AARP Says Idaho on Crash Course With Health Care Disaster

Thursday, October 29, 2009 General News J E 4

Part-Timer's Premium Hikes, State Retirees Kicked off Health Care, Coupled with Budget Cuts for Safety Net Programs Leaves Residents Scrambling for Care

BOISE, Idaho, Oct. 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- While Idaho's part-time employees face massive health care premium increases, state retirees are bracing to lose their state health care in the coming months, all as programs and services providing a critical safety net continue to be cut.  AARP says it's a combination that spells health care disaster for many Idaho residents and the Association is calling on lawmakers to address it.  

"It doesn't make any sense to pull the rug out from underneath Idaho's part-time state employees and retirees, while continuing to weaken the programs in the community where people turn in times of crisis," said Jim Wordelman, AARP Idaho State Director.  "AARP members in Idaho – half of whom are in the workforce – are looking to their elected officials at the state and federal level to tackle this issue now."

Many of Idaho's part-time employees, who are expected to see health care premiums increase as much as ten times their current premiums, may find themselves joining the growing ranks of the state's residents who have jobs, but not health care.  Roughly 88% of Idaho's uninsured are employed.  Come January 1st, state retirees 65 and older are set to be forced off their state health care and into Medicare, which many may be unable to afford.  At the same time, Governor "Butch" Otter is calling for even more cuts to Medicaid and already cash strapped programs that provide critical community-based health care services to Idaho residents who are struggling.

"More people are being forced to turn to the programs and services in the community as incomes and retirement savings dwindle, home values sink and health care costs soar – soon they won't have any place to go," added Wordelman.  "As health care continues to be debated in Boise and Washington, D.C. - we're urging our elected officials to set politics aside and address skyrocketing health care costs and work to increase access and affordability right now."  

While state lawmakers moved to force state retirees 65 and older into Medicare, last week, U.S. Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch voted to block legislation that would have permanently staved off a near 22% pay cut in Medicare for doctors – the action is expected to see more doctors refusing to accept patients under the program.  At the state level, in addition to the cuts and premium hikes, Idaho legislators are meeting next week to debate whether or not to participate in federal measures which could allow more Idahoans access to health care.  




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