Problem of Lost Health Benefits Reaches Into Middle Class
New York Times (11/25/02) Vol. 365, No. 8299 p.A1; Broder, John M.

Despite decreasing joblessness--mostly due to the increase in positions in small businesses and service industries--the number of uninsured Americans increased throughout the 1990s, and the number continues to grow as middle class and higher income families are hit by increased health care and prescription drug costs. A majority of minorities, immigrants, part-time workers, and service workers do not have health insurance, and as the number of unemployed Americans increases due to failures in the technology and telecommunications industries, experts expect more and more workers to forego coverage. In fact, 25 percent of workers claim that the federal Cobra program that allows employees to retain their employer's health care coverage for 18 months after dismissal, if they pay the full premium, is too expensive, according to the Commonwealth Fund. Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation President Drew E. Altman says, "the number of uninsured will continue to grow as long as health insurance premiums rise more rapidly than earnings, as they have for a decade." However, health care system reform advocates see the increase in high and middle income uninsured as the needed push for lawmakers. The Health Care Leadership Council claims that high-wage workers and small business owners are more effective lobbyers than uninsured children and the poor. In fact, Republicans have already proposed instituting tax incentives to help individuals, families, and small businesses purchase coverage, while Democrats are eager to expand the eligibility requirements for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.


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