PHLP Releases "Uninsured Pennsylvanians: Meet Your Friends, Neighbors, Co-Workers"

Personal Stories Illustrate Importance of Coverage for 1,300,000 Pennsylvanians

As Congress debates health care reform, the Pennsylvania Health Law Project has issued UNINSURED PENNSYLVANIANS. This new report chronicles the personal struggles of eight Pennsylvanians who have little or no health insurance coverage.

“Often, the uninsured are made out to be poor, lazy, unemployed, homeless, and irresponsible. In other words, not like us,” said Dr. Gene Bishop, who interviewed the individuals and authored the profiles. “The opposite is true.” According to the Congressional Budget Office, about ninety percent of the 1.3 million uninsured people in Pennsylvania go to work or live in a household where someone goes to work. Often they are not offered health insurance at work or the coverage offered is too expensive to buy.

UNINSURED PENNSYLVANIANS is a first-hand look at the daily difficulties people without health insurance face and the reasons they do not have health coverage. These stories illustrate the importance of securing quality health insurance for all. Domenic, for example, worked for more than 40 years until he was laid off and lost his employer-sponsored health insurance. He never thought he would need government assistance but, as a taxpayer, he believed help would be there for him. “I’m looking for a little bit of help, not a long term handout,” he said. Domenic discovered the reality: a working adult without a child or a disability is not eligible for Medicaid, the largest government program for the non-elderly (those under 65). Without insurance to pay for his medications, Domenic lost three toes. They were amputated when he developed a serious infection due to his untreated diabetes.

“Stories like Domenic’s get us beyond the numbers” said Laval Miller-Wilson, PHLP’s Executive Director. “The uninsured are our neighbors, living every day with illness and fear —fear of getting sicker, fear of losing their homes due to unpaid medical bills, fear of acknowledging a serious health problem only to be faced with the staggering costs of treatment.” While PHLP was able to assist some of these individuals in obtaining at least partial coverage, not every uninsured Pennsylvanian will “be lucky” enough to find a program to meet their needs.

UNINSURED PENNSYLVANIANS describes people across the Commonwealth who are:

  • Hard working, but have no affordable insurance: Meet Hope of Philadelphia County, a high school science teacher who retired at age 52 and gave up her employer-sponsored insurance to take care of her elderly mother.
  • One job away from coverage: Meet Maraline of Allegheny County, a 52-year-old laboratory technician, who stopped working (temporarily) but her diabetes prevents her from obtaining individual health insurance coverage.
  • Women, who are particularly vulnerable: Often, women have lower incomes but higher health care costs, and women are more likely to be employed part-time without employer-based insurance coverage. Meet Tracy of Northampton County, who co-owned a family restaurant with her husband and lost health insurance twice.
  • Young: More than half of uninsured Pennsylvanians are between the ages of 19 & 39. Meet Eric of Bucks County, who developed heart disease. His story reminds us that no one is invincible.

Being an uninsured Pennsylvanian means:

  • not getting care when you are sick;
  • few, if any, preventive health screenings;
  • no regular access to a doctor;
  • high medical debt, ruined credit, and collection calls;
  • no financial stability; no health care security

What Must Be Done: The health care status quo is not an option for Pennsylvania. Currently 1.3 million residents of Pennsylvania do not have health insurance. Without reform, the number could swell to almost two million. Pennsylvania needs meaningful heath care reform now!



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