Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Senators Fuller Clark and Hassan and Representative Grassie Welcome Nationwide Road Tour To Highlight Problems Americans Face Getting Healthcare
PORTSMOUTH, NH — Consumer Reports Health’s Cover America Tour came to Portsmouth today as part of swing through New England to highlight the challenges Americans face getting high quality, affordable health coverage. The nationwide tour was welcomed at a news conference in Portsmouth by Senators Martha Fuller Clark and Margaret Wood Hassan, Representative Anne Grassie, along with New Hampshire Voices for Health.
“In town after town, we’re meeting people who are struggling to keep up with rising healthcare costs and who wonder whether their insurance will cover all their care when they need it most,” said Meg Bohne, Campaign Organizer for Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports Health. “It’s clear that healthcare is a major issue for most families and we want to make sure our leaders address the problems they face as the debate heats up over healthcare reform.”
The Cover America tour is traveling across the country by RV over the next four months to listen to Americans talk about their experiences with our nation’s healthcare system. As the tour crew travels 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. The web site enables users to submit their own stories and to find out how they can join with thousands of others across the U.S. to support healthcare reform.
With health-care costs rising, Americans are feeling anxious about their ability to pay their medical bills. A 2007 Consumer Reports survey found that 65 percent of Americans fear losing their job-related health coverage and 68 percent worry about being bankrupted by medical bills following a serious illness or accident. Thirty-five percent of those responding to the survey said they skipped or postponed medical care to control expenses over the previous year.
Workers in New Hampshire who get their insurance through their jobs contribute 23 percent of the premium ($965) compared to the national average of 18 percent ($723). Family health insurance premiums from job-related coverage cost workers an average of $2,882 in New Hampshire, compared to the national average of $2,585. Between 2002 and 2005, family premiums in New Hampshire increased by 12.7 percent, while median earnings of workers purchasing family coverage declined by 1 percent. Eleven percent of New Hampshire residents or nearly 138,000 people are uninsured.
“I continue to hear from constituents who find that health insurance is either completely unaffordable or completely unavailable,” said Senator Margaret Wood Hassan. “The rising cost of health coverage is challenging for many New Hampshire residents, but particularly for the self-employed.”
Quote from Senator Martha Fuller Clark
Also appearing at the Portsmouth news conference was Chuck Engborg, a resident of Ashland, who has a had a difficult time paying for heath coverage. Chuck was insured through his wife’s employer-provided policy, but when she lost her job they had to pay the full premium by exercising their COBRA option. During the year before she was able to find a new job, their COBRA premium and other out-of-pocket medical expenses ate up over 50 percent of Chuck’s monthly income.
“Paying for insurance on our own was a real stretch for us financially,” said Enborg. “There were many times during that year when we had to go without buying needed medications just so we could pay other monthly bills.” Engborg’s wife now has coverage through her new employer but the policy has a high deductible and only covers 80 percent of their medical costs.
Representative Anne Grassie spoke at the news conference about her experience as the Director of the Dover Children’s Center. Grassie has worked to promote the need for child care providers and low income families to have health insurance. Many of the staff members at her child care center are unable to afford coverage because of high costs.
“For many hard working New Hampshire families, health coverage is simply beyond their financial reach,” said Representative Grassie. “Healthcare is clearly a necessity for all of us, but too many New Hampshire families are doing without insurance coverage.”
“Too many people including middle class Granite Staters have to think twice before switching jobs or starting a business because they’re worried they won’t be able to get insurance,” said Annie Farnsworth of New Hampshire Voices for Health. “It’s not right that hard-working New Hampshire folks are struggling to afford healthcare and their prescriptions, while small businesses are strangled by the cost of their employees’ healthcare.” New Hampshire Voices for Health is a network of consumer and advocacy organizations allied in their commitment to securing quality, affordable healthcare for all in New Hampshire.
Michael McCauley – 415-902-9537 (cell)
Annie Farnsworth, NH Voices for Health – 603-731-3758
ConsumerReportsHealth.org is an informative web site published by Consumers Union that provides a rich array of research and recommendations about healthcare and healthy living. The web site aims to answer pressing health questions – from which diet plan is rated best to cost-effective alternatives to different prescription drugs – and to provide advice about making better healthcare decisions.