ALLENTOWN, Pa., May 1 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