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Home Health Workers See One-Two Punch of Rising Healthcare Costs

July 3, 2009

Seattle – Home healthcare workers held rallies Thursday in six cities around the state, urging people to "declare independence" from a healthcare system that isn’t working. They have a unique perspective on the problem, working with seniors and people with disabilities, while at the same time, facing risks to their own health insurance because of state budget cutbacks.

Heather Miller is a home-care worker who says many will have to drop their insurance coverage if the state makes them pay more for it, and she would welcome a more-affordable public insurance option.

"Private insurance doesn’t work because, bottom line, it’s there to make a profit. It’s not there for people’s health. You can be for one or for the other – you can’t be for both."

Heather Miller, a Seattle home-care worker, had surgery for a brain tumor 15 years ago. Her insurance costs continue to rise, and she says she is sometimes tempted to skip a doctor visit to save money; something 12 percent of Washingtonians say they now do.

"I’ve been lucky. Now, I’m getting semi-regular CAT scans, MRIs, EEGs. I’ve got to keep a handle on things. I can’t ignore it – however much I might like to."

Home-care workers are the only group still bargaining with the state, which wants to increase their premiums and co-pays. Miller points out that most make $10 or $11 an hour and can barely afford the coverage now. Overall, the average family health insurance premium has risen more than 100 percent in Washington since 2000.

Rallies were held in Bremerton, Everett, Olympia, Seattle, Spokane and Tacoma. Healthcare cost statistics are from the June 26 Health Care Status Quo report released by U.S. Health & Human Service Sec. Kathleen Sebelius.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA