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Study finds insured still impacted

It’s a silent statistic. And it’s not the one most often cited when the issue is health care in this state.

But just because a family in Ohio has health insurance, doesn’t mean it has the protection … the peace of mind … that the family thinks it has. So says a report

entitled

“Too Great A Burden: Ohio’s Families At Risk,”

just released by Families USA, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group focusing on the health care consumer.

In a teleconference Wednesday morning, Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, discussed his organization’s findings with reporters from The Ironton Tribune,

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cincinnati Enquirer, the Columbus Dispatch,

and the Dayton Daily News. Joining him in the call was U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, (D-Ohio),

U.S. Rep Betty Sutton (D-13th) and Cathy J. Levine,

executive director of

UHCAN Ohio (Universal Health Care Action Network) of Ohio.

“Health care has become the top domestic priority for voters across the country … second to the war in Iraq,” Pollack told reporters. “We decided to take a look at what people would be spending when they go to the polls in 2008 and try to reflect on the pinch on family budgets that health care is consuming.”

In 2008, the study estimates, there will be approximately 2.2 million individuals in families who will be spending more than 10 percent of their pre-tax income on health care. These are individuals under the age of 65. In 2002 that figure was close to 1.8 million.

“That is a very substantial increase. This is greater than the population of Cincinnati,” Pollack said. “What is so astounding about this is that the overwhelming majority … are people who have health insurance. This is not a story about people who are down and out and don’t have health insurance. Premiums are going up. The deductibles are going up … fewer benefits are being covered.”

Pollack estimates about half of those in this target group have income levels that range from $30,000 to $75,000. However, the study was unable to come up with any statistics as far as geographic areas in the state, including any

specific data for Lawrence County or the Appalachian region.

Usually, when the topic of health care arises, the concern revolves around the 47 million who have no health insurance coverage because they are unemployed or self-employed

and cannot afford coverage or for other reasons.

“What we don’t talk about is the embarrassment that so many Ohioans are financially crippled by catastrophic health care who have health insurance,” Brown said. “There are several things that we can be doing.

We need to fight insurers to do the job they are paid to do. And we will continue to try to enact SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) expansion. … Children don’t cost much to insure because they are mostly young and healthy.”

Brown said there are proposals to extend SCHIP coverage that have bipartisan support in both houses of Congress.

The senator also predicts there will also be more bipartisan support for addressing the overall health care issues as the 2008 Presidential campaigns heat up.

“Come 2009 Republicans who have been more resistant, you will see them on board,’’ Brown said.

Sutton, who represents four of the state’s more populous counties — Lorain, Cuyahoga, Medina and Summit — called the report extremely important.

“It highlights the financial hardship,” she said. “A lot of the focus on health care debate is on the 47 million. This report draws attention to the fact that having health care insurance is no guarantee to

having economic security.”