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Secretary Cortes Calls Latino Community to Action Against Ailing Health Care System

Death Toll Due to Lack of Health Care Coverage Twice 2006 Homicide Rate

PHILADELPHIA, May 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortes today echoed Governor Edward G. Rendell's call for Senate passage of legislation to provide affordable health care for every Pennsylvanian, and he extended the challenge to the Latino community.

"The only way to cure the health care crisis afflicting hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians is to immediately remedy an ailing system," Cortes said during a press conference and community outreach event at the Maria de los Santos Health Center in Philadelphia.

Cortes was joined by Pennsylvania Insurance Department Deputy Commissioner George Hoover; Concilio Executive Director Roberto Santiago; Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Varsovia Fernandez; Delaware Valley Health Vice President and Chief Medical Officer A. Scott McNeal, D.O.; and Delaware Valley Health Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Brenda Robles Cooke.

On average, two Pennsylvanians died every day in 2006 because they lacked health insurance, according to Families USA, a health care advocacy group.

Nationally, lack of health insurance was responsible for twice as many deaths as homicide in the same year.

"The Rendell administration refuses to accept that 767,000 of our fellow Pennsylvanians face each day in fear that there is no affordable health care for them, their loved ones, or their employees," he said. "I encourage the Latino community to refuse to accept it, too, and to contact their legislators today."

According to the state Insurance Department, the health care crisis is everyone's business. Approximately 6.5 percent of insurance premiums paid by businesses and individuals is spent on covering the health care costs of the uninsured.

"Public opinion polls show increasing anxiety about the current health system, as more employers shed coverage and premium costs outpace inflation each year," said Deputy Insurance Commissioner George Hoover.

Between 2000 and 2006, more workers in Pennsylvania lost employer-provided health insurance than workers in any other state, except California.

Prescription for Pennsylvania is Governor Rendell's plan to ensure access to affordable health insurance for all Pennsylvanians, expand access to health care, improve the quality of care and bring health care costs under control for employers and workers.

The Pennsylvania Access to Basic Care program (PA ABC), the health insurance plan recently passed by the House of Representatives, expands on Governor Rendell's proposal.

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, those employees earn less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $31,200 per year.

All uninsured adults in Pennsylvania - regardless of employment status or income level - would be able to buy 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 will receive help from the state in paying part of his or her ABC premium.

For more information about Governor Rendell's Prescription for Pennsylvania, visit


Leslie Amoros

Rebecca Halton


SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of State
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