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Idaho's Rising Jobless Rate Fuels State's Growing Health Care Woes

Thursday, November 12, 2009 General News J E 4
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Near 9% Unemployment Leaves More Idaho Families Struggling with High Health Care Costs - Highlights Need for Reform

BOISE, Idaho, Nov. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As Idaho's jobless rate approaches 9%, so do the health care worries for the over 67,300 unemployed Idahoans finding themselves without employer benefits. While many have exhausted both state and federal benefits, AARP is calling on Idaho's Congressional delegation to set politics aside and support health care reform measures delivering needed relief to state residents buckling under soaring costs.

"When people lose their jobs they lose their health care benefits - leaving Idahoans struggling to afford even the most basic health care they need for themselves and their families," said Jim Wordelman, State Director for AARP in Idaho. "While Washington debates health care reform, the harsh reality of high health care costs is landing in the middle of kitchen tables across the state forcing many Idaho residents to go without."

For over 221,000 uninsured Idahoans (88% who have jobs), the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962), offers immediate assistance by helping them purchase health care insurance. The AARP-backed legislation recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives and has now been sent to the Senate. Neither Congressman Walt Minnick nor Congressman Mike Simpson supported the measure in the House.

"Now that real health care reform is headed to the Senate, AARP is calling on Senators Crapo and Risch to focus on what's best for Idaho by supporting legislation that helps people get the coverage they need," added Wordelman. "This debate is far from over - Representatives Minnick and Simpson will have another chance to say 'yes' to meaningful health care reform for all Idahoans."

In Idaho, nearly 400,000 residents spend more than 10% of their pre-tax household income on health care costs, while roughly 100,000 spend upwards of a quarter of their income.

For hundreds of thousands of Idahoans who can barely afford skyrocketing health care costs, the legislation strictly limits how much more insurance companies can charge based on age, and stops insurers from denying coverage based on a person's health history or gender. The legislation also closes the dangerous Medicare prescription drug coverage gap known as the "doughnut hole" and allows the program to negotiate lower drug prices. It adds cost-free preventive services like cancer screenings and cracks down on waste and fraud to protect and strengthen traditional Medicare benefits.

AARP has nearly 185,000 members in Idaho.

SOURCE AARP Idaho
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