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Health Secretary Visits Lawrence County to Call for Health Insurance for All Pennsylvanians
Date:3/5/2008

ELLWOOD CITY, Pa., March 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Secretary of Health Dr. Calvin B. Johnson met health care workers at the Ellwood City Area family Center in Ellwood City to discuss Governor Edward G. Rendell's plan to provide access to health insurance to hundreds of thousands of uninsured adults through his "Cover All Pennsylvanians" proposal.

"Access to affordable insurance is critical to help prevent disease, successfully manage chronic diseases, such as diabetes and asthma, and to reduce the burden that caring for the uninsured places on our health care system," said Dr. Johnson. "Cover All Pennsylvanians is the bold step our state needs to improve access and affordability of health care for every citizen."

Dr. Johnson was joined at the event by Rep. Jaret Gibbons. Gibbons' district includes part of Lawrence County, where more than 11 percent of the adult population lacks health insurance.

Governor Rendell's plan to "Cover All Pennsylvanians" will give uninsured individuals -- and small businesses that currently do not offer insurance -- the chance to buy affordable, basic insurance in the private market that will cover physical and behavioral health care and prescriptions. Currently, 767,000 adults and 133,000 children are uninsured in Pennsylvania.

During a four-day tour, Dr. Johnson is visiting communities in Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Erie, Warren, Lawrence, Westmoreland, Mercer, Cambria, and Allegheny counties.

"Our citizens are Pennsylvania's greatest resource and keeping them healthy must be a priority. I'm here today to engage our health care partners and ask them to join the fight to get the Governor's plan approved by the General Assembly, said Dr. Johnson. "Everyone must get involved now to make a health care system that is accessible and affordable for all Pennsylvanians."

Under the Governor's proposal, Cover All Pennsylvanians will be paid for with a combination of funds from different sources, including a 10 cents increase in the cigarette tax (Pennsylvania's first ever smokeless tobacco tax), and surplus funds from the Mcare abatement program. The Mcare abatement fund is used to reduce doctors' out-of-pocket costs for medical malpractice coverage. The account has a surplus because of the improving medical malpractice climate in the state.

The cost of paying for care for the uninsured is $1.4 billion a year. About $400 million of that cost is directly paid by the state to hospitals to cover uncompensated care for the uninsured. The remaining amount is paid by the businesses and individuals who already purchase health insurance coverage, as about 6.5 percent of every premium dollar paid goes to cover the cost of the uninsured.

For more information on the Governor's "Prescription for Pennsylvania," go to http://www.rxforpa.com.

CONTACT:

Stacy Kriedeman

(717) 787-1783


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SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Health
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