Governor: "Sickest people can't get coverage"

January 14, 2008 4:19:15 PM PST
With Republicans refusing to budge, Democratic leaders ask Pennsylvanians for insurance push

Governor Ed Rendell came to the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine on behalf of his plan, Cover All Pennsylvanians, or CAP for short.

The goal is affordable insurance for nearly 800,000 uninsured adults - including individuals and those working for small businesses.

The governor also wants some other reforms, "Making sure once and for all that you can't be denied because of a pre-existing condition."

The governor says much of the money is already there, from surpluses in several programs. One of those is the Mcare plan, which was created to help relieve Pennsylvania's medical liability insurance crisis. Since 2003, reforms have brought down the number of malpractice claims by 34 per cent, and nearly cut payouts in half. The result, says the governor, is a $400 million dollar balance.

Rendell is now turning his attention to the state's next health crisis, the growing number of middle-class residents with no health insurance.

State Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Phila.) says more than 70% of the uninsured work, with half between the ages of 18 and 34. And more than a quarter have not had insurance for 5 years or more.

Hughes says, "Why are we waiting? We have the money in place."

The governor says over the past 7 years, more than half a million Pennsylvanians have lost their employer-offered health insurance.

In addition to funding the insurance plan from the Mcare surplus, the government he also wants a 10 cent hike in the cigarette tax, and the state's first-ever tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco.

Rendell also wants the state insurance commissioner the right to set health insurance rates, the way auto rates are set.

Democratic leaders called on Pennsylvanians to call, write, or send e-mail to Harrisburg, to break a legislative logjam.

State. Senator Vince Fumo, (D-Phila.) says in the 21st century, health insurance is a basic human right. But there's strong opposition in Harrisburg, "Republicans in the Senate don't even want to compromise."

State Representative Kathy Manderino said citizens have the clout to get action. " Put the pressure on. Every member of my chamber is running for re-election this year."

The governor says insurance company lobbyists are a powerful bunch, but voters can win.

The legislators want an agreement by Valentine's Day, but the governor says even if it doesn't come till early May, enrollments can begin in September.