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Report: Is Health Reform What the Doctor Ordered for Floridians?

October 2, 2009

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - While the U.S. House of Representatives stands ready to vote on health reform legislation, a new report finds, if passed, it would bring coverage to an additional two million Floridians by 2013, and would increase regulations that protect consumers. The report, released by Families USA, shows almost four million Floridians do not have health insurance, and the number is growing by more than 15,000 every month. The health reform bill waiting for a vote in the House would make insurance more affordable, and would stop insurance companies from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions or job changes, according to the report.

Laura Goodhue, executive director of the health care advocacy group, Florida CHAIN, says increasing coverage here is critical.

"This is obviously a crisis and it's almost impossible to comprehend how many people are going without the needed doctors visits and medications every day."

Ian Perl is confined to a wheelchair and relies on a ventilator to breathe. For over 20 years, he had home health services, but his insurance coverage is ending and he can't find replacement insurance, at any price, due to his pre-existing condition. Perl faces moving to a nursing home at age 37. Susan Perl, his mother, says they were paying $50,000 a year in insurance premiums.

"Ian cannot survive without one-on-one nursing care. The reason he's alive, healthy, stable, extremely happy and functional, is due to the one-on-one skilled nursing care he has received."

Kathleen Stoll, deputy executive director of Families USA, says the house bill would put a cap on out-of-pocket expenses, slow the growing costs of premiums, and force the marketplace to treat consumers more fairly.

"If we pass health reform, and I think we're on the cusp, after decades of debate and delay, I think we're going to pass something that will help every consumer across the country."

Supporters say the House bill would also help those who have health insurance by reducing the hidden tax of the uninsured, which adds, on average, $1,000 to premiums. They also expect the legislation to reduce medical bankruptcies and help small businesses afford coverage. Critics say health care reform is too expensive and none of the current plans would solve the problems.

Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL