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Pennsylvania Agriculture Official Says Passage of PA ABC Crucial to Rural Communities

Says Majority of Uninsured are Working, Struggling to Make Ends Meet

HARRISBURG, Pa., May 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Working adults in rural communities who are struggling with the rising costs of health care would be greatly helped if the General Assembly approves a bill to provide health care insurance for all, a Department of Agriculture official said today.

During a visit to the Westmoreland County Food Bank, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Cheryl Cook said passage of Pennsylvania Access to Basic Care, or PA ABC, which builds on Governor Edward G. Rendell's Prescription for Pennsylvania plan, would help the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians struggling to cover their costs and keep their families healthy.

"Too many people in Pennsylvania are faced with the choice to buy food or pay for medical coverage," said Cook. "Without the means to have both, the end result will be more serious health issues in the future and more days spent worrying about themselves and their families.

"The majority of uninsured adults are working full-time jobs and supporting families of four, and they're struggling with high costs and low wages. Passage of PA ABC is an essential step towards solving these problems."

The cost of health care has risen 75 percent over the past five years, and wages have gone up only 13 percent. As a result, Cook said, thousands of people in Westmoreland and its surrounding counties are in need of health care reform.

Nearly 5 percent of the adults in Westmoreland County - more than 9,600 residents - are uninsured, with even more in surrounding counties like Somerset, with 11.4 percent uninsured; Fayette, 14.8 percent; and Indiana, 13.4 percent.

Health coverage under PA ABC would be offered through private insurance companies. Employers could participate if they have not offered health care coverage to their employees for at least six months, if they have 50 or fewer employees and, if, on average, these employees earn less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $31,200 per year.

All uninsured adults in Pennsylvania - no matter their employment status or income level - would be able to purchase affordable health insurance through this program at the same premium rate the commonwealth pays. In addition, an individual from a family of four who earns up to $42,400 a year would receive help from the state in paying part of his or her ABC premium.

Cook said that not only the uninsured are affected by lack of access to health care, because approximately 6.5 percent of insurance premiums paid by businesses and individuals is used to cover the cost of health care for the uninsured.

For more information on the Governor's Prescription for Pennsylvania, go to

CONTACT: Chris L. Ryder

(717) 787-5085

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
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