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Feds: Affordable Health Coverage Increasingly Out of Reach in Virginia

July 2, 2009

RICHMOND, Va. - In a state-by-state report on the status of health care, the federal government says more and more Virginians cannot afford health insurance. According to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, small businesses in particular have a difficult time providing care to their employees. While small businesses make up 71 percent of all Virginia companies, a federal report found that less than half of them offer health coverage.

Sebelius says that will change if a new health care plan is adopted.

"First of all, the new health exchange will give affordable options for small businesses owners that they don't have now. It gives them choice."

Opponents of changes to the current health care system fear that private insurers will be priced out of the market if the government offers a plan. But Sebelius says competition will remain in any new health care system.

Her goal is to make it easier for small businesses to offer health insurance by including provisions to keep costs down, she adds. For example, employers of people with health problems will no longer pay higher rates.

"The elimination of 'pre-existing conditions' will mean that they can actually come into the marketplace without their costs skyrocketing."

Congress is currently debating health care reform.

Sebelius says supporting small businesses is necessary to help cover the 14 percent of Virginians who do not have health insurance.

"All of the proposals - and the President has made it very clear in his proposals - include some tax incentives for small business owners to offer insurance coverage."

Eleven percent of Virginians say they declined to see a doctor last year because of the cost.

More information is available at www.healthreform.gov.

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA