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President Obama Calls on Virginians to Support Health Care Reform

July 29, 2009

RICHMOND, Va. - President Barack Obama will meet with 100 employees of a Kroger supermarket in Virginia to discuss his plans for health care reform. Kroger says it spent more than $1 billion on health insurance for its employees last year.

A highlight of the president's visit will be discussion of the so-called "hidden" costs of health care to workers - things like higher deductibles, higher copayments and other out-of-pocket costs not covered by their insurance plans. While health insurance coverage is often described in terms of the uninsured, it is those workers with insurance who pay more of these hidden costs.

According to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the average premium for a family in Virginia has increased 99 percent since 2000. Neal Graham, chief executive officer for the Virginia Community Healthcare Association, says skyrocketing insurance premiums take money directly from workers' pockets.

"Fewer dollars are available for salaries, for new jobs, and for other types of investment in the business."

Community health centers provide care to everyone in Virginia, regardless of their health insurance status, says Graham. In 2008, that meant caring for 240,000 Virginians - and Graham says many of them are noticing that the country's current health care system is also slashing their paychecks and making job security a thing of the past.

"A lot of people are very happy with what they have, until they figure out what they don't have, or how much in jeopardy it may be."

AHRQ research says out-of-pocket medical expenses have risen at least 30 percent for those who are insured since 2000.

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA