Thursday, July 17, 2008
AUSTIN, TX — Consumer Reports Health’s Cover America Tour is visiting Austin this week as part of a summer-long road trip across the country to highlight the challenges Americans face getting high quality, affordable health coverage. The nationwide tour was welcomed to Austin today at a news conference at the People’s Community Clinic by Representative Elliott Naishtat.
“The high cost of healthcare is causing a real strain on American families,” said Meg Bohne, Campaign Organizer for Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports Health. “Many Americans fear losing their job-related health coverage or worry that they may face financial ruin if they get hit with a serious illness.”
The Cover America Tour has been on the road since late May and is making its way across the country this summer to listen to Americans talk about their experiences with our nation’s healthcare system. As the tour crew travels by RV from coast to coast, they’re posting videos of people talking about the challenges they’ve experienced with health coverage and blogging about what they’re hearing at www.CoverAmericaTour.org.
“Austinites are not immune from the major economic issues that face our nation,” said Regina Rogoff, Chief Executive Officer of People’s Community Clinic (PCC). “All too often entire families go without health insurance and gamble that they will stay well. At PCC, we strive to provide comprehensive, affordable care to as many families as we can with our limited resources. By providing our patients with a medical home, we can avert future medical and financial crises.”
The People’s Community Clinic was founded in 1970 and provides healthcare to thousands of uninsured and medically underserved children and adults every year. The need is great. Nearly 5.5 million Texans have no health coverage. Texas has the highest rate of uninsured than any other state in the country. Twenty four percent of Texans are uninsured compared to 16 percent, on average, for other states.
One patient who has been helped by the People’s Community Clinic is Linda Cannon of Austin. In 2004, Linda lost her health insurance coverage when she was laid off from her job with a microchip processing company. As a single mother, she could not afford the COBRA payments to continue her
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health coverage for herself and two daughters. Losing her health insurance was a serious issue for Linda since she has hypothyroidism, a condition caused by insufficient production of the thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism can cause fatigue, depression, joint pain and weight gain if not properly treated with medication. Severe cases of hypothyroidism can be life threatening.
“Without access to proper medical care my health would deteriorate and I would be at high risk for heart disease,” said Cannon. “Fortunately, I’ve been able to see a doctor regularly and get the care I need as a patient at the People’s Community Clinic.”
Obtaining affordable health coverage is a major challenge for many families in Texas. Between 2001 and 2005, family premiums in Texas increased 39.7 percent, while median earnings for those purchasing family coverage increased by only 3.51 percent. The self-employed and those who must buy individual health insurance policies have few protections: there are no restrictions on price and no limit on how long insurers can exclude coverage of pre-existing conditions. The state has a high risk pool program for people who can’t afford insurance through their employer or the individual market, but they may be charged as much as twice the premium that a healthy person would pay a private insurer.
“It’s becoming more and more difficult for people without health coverage and families who are underinsured,” said Representative Elliott Naishtat. “I hear from small business owners about increasing costs and the hardship of providing health insurance to their employees. Workers are faced with paying a greater proportion of premiums as well as higher co-pays. Many families are going without health coverage at all.”
The Cover America Tour also is also focusing attention on the experiences of Americans who have been harmed by poor quality medical care. More than 2.6 million hospital patients are the victims of infections and medical errors every year and almost 200,000 of them die. This makes medically-induced harm – errors and hospital acquired infections – the third leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer.
“Patients deserve strong safety and accountability standards that protect them from the epidemic of medical errors that is plaguing our healthcare system,” said N. Alex Winslow, Executive Director of Texas Watch. “The legal rights of patients in Texas and in states across the nation have been whittled to the bone, making transparency of medical errors and hospital acquired infections even more crucial so that patients have the information they need to be active participants in their own care.”
Michael McCauley – 415-431-6747, ext 126