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Health Care

By Sarah Costello

Oct. 5, 2009

Healthcare has been a popular issue in the news since President Barack Obama’s campaign promises for reform. According to a White House Report, health insurance premiums have skyrocketed during the past 10 months in North Carolina due to the economic recession. Though premiums have been increasing since 2000, the recent jump in costs has hurt many businesses, employers and private citizens.

North Carolina families experienced dramatic health insurance premium increases during 2009 when the average annual family premium for health insurance sponsored by employers unexpectedly rose to $13,375 – a 5.5 percent increase attributed to the recent recession.

“The status quo of rising premiums is simply unsustainable for families, for businesses, for state budgets and for our national economy,” said Vice President Joe Biden in a Sept. 22 White House press release.

According to Families USA, the voice for health care consumers, health insurance premiums have been rising steadily since 2000, while N.C. wages have barely increased. Since 2000, health insurance premiums in the U.S. increased 96.8 percent while wages have only risen 18.4 percent, according to Families USA.

With thousands unemployed and little change in wage growth, employers and business owners must find methods of cutting costs by offering fewer benefits, disqualifying employees from coverage and omitting coverage of spouses and children. As a result, North Carolina families are paying higher premiums and receiving less for their money.

“Rising health care costs threaten the financial well-being of families in North Carolina and across the nation,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA in an Aug. 18 press release. “If health care reform does not happen soon, more and more families will be priced out of the health coverage they used to take for granted.”

Another underlying issue is the number of firms that continue to offer health insurance to clients. Families USA reports six percent of U.S. firms offering health insurance ceased to provide health insurance between 2000 and 2008. There is also an added risk that more families will be forced to file for bankruptcy as a result of medical debts. Medical bills contribute to half of U.S. bankruptcies, reports Families USA.

Biden met with State Insurance Commissioners on Sept. 22 to compile a new White House report about the health insurance premium increases for North Carolina residents. The document can be accessed at www.whitehouse.gov.

“The State Insurance Commissioners understand firsthand the health care crisis, and are fighting everyday to combat it and reduce unjustified premium increase,” said Biden in the press release. “But these numbers are just one more piece of evidence that we need for nationwide reform.”

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By Sarah Costello

Sept. 20, 2009

healthcare

The White House has taken a firmer stance on health care coverage of illegal immigrants following Congressman Joe Wilson’s objection of “you lie!” during a joint session of Congress Sept. 9. after President Barack Obama stated the proposed health care bill would not cover illegal immigrants.

While Wilson’s comments elicited controversy and debate between both sides of the political aisle, his statement encouraged excessive media coverage and renewed study of the bill by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Hours after Obama’s speech, “The Obama Plan” was posted on www.whitehouse.gov, explaining what the proposed bill will cover, whom it will cover and how it will cover Americans.

The current debacle concerning the bill revolves around the only available public bill, H.R. 3200, which did not offer a definite explanation of illegal immigrants and health insurance coverage.

The Obama administration claims the president was referring to his proposal during his prime time speech and not H.R. 3200, but the renewed legislation has not been sent to Capitol Hill, adding to controversy and confusion.

Democrats have directed opposing factors to the current legislation that they claim will not allow illegal immigrants to access federal subsidies that low-income American citizens will qualify for, which would enable them to purchase health insurance.

On Sept. 11, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs presented stricter policies regarding health care coverage for illegal immigrants.

“Illegal immigrants would not be allowed to access the exchange that is set up,” said Gibbs.

Under the current health care system, illegal immigrants can purchase private insurance but are not allowed to access government-funded care. Under the new bill, illegal immigrants will not be given the option to purchase private insurance, a move that has many left-winged democrats and Latino coalitions in an uproar.

Image courtesy of Stop the North American Union

Image courtesy of Stop the North American Union

In fact, thousands of Latinos and blacks gathered on Sept. 9 in San Antonio to push for government-run health care. The League of United Latin American Citizens, the largest Latino civil rights organization in the U.S., met to support Obama and his proposed public option.

Many Republicans argue that illegal immigrants should not have health care coverage due to violation of set laws that forbid immigrants from entering the U.S. without proper documentation. Others are not as stringent and argue illegal immigrants are entitled to health care if given amnesty.

“If amnesty is approved through the amnesty bill then people who are current illegal [immigrants] will be legal and will be covered by the bill,” said George Padgett, a professor of media law and ethics at Elon University. “Personally, I stand on the side of being understanding and concerned about my fellow human beings regardless of who they are.”

Others view the health care coverage a matter of principle and argue that people who are living in the U.S. illegally are not entitled to health care and should not be given the benefits paid for by the government or taxes.

“I think Congress has a duty to uphold the laws of this country, which clearly prohibit illegal immigration,” said junior Nicholas Ochsner, the executive director of College Republicans. “We’re going to see an even bigger drain on the health care system if we extend health coverage to illegal immigrants.”