by Randy Shannon
Employer health care drops faster in PA
Employer-based health coverage is disappearing faster in Pennsylvania than it is in any other state except Michigan, according to a study released by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute. Since the turn of the century, there are 694,471 fewer people who receive their coverage from their employers across the state. The survey compared 2000 and 2001 to 2007 and 2008. Also, 201,425 fewer children are on their parents’ benefits packages than there were seven years earlier, the study found.
In light of these facts here are the thoughts of two concerned people in the PA 4th CD whose seat in the House is occupied by former corporate lobbyist Jason Altmire. The first is an email communication from Joel Brown of Espyville that tells about the suffering of our people who do not have access to healthcare. The second is an open letter to Cong. Altmire from Dr. Joe Talarico of Zelienople in response to his vote against healthcare reform.
Communication from Joel Brown:
I opened your e-mail of Joe Talarico’s response to Jason Altmire’s health care vote and felt compelled to pass on a personal observation. Last night I was in the Jamestown (PA) Volunteer Fire Department’s Social Hall. Sitting next to me was a man in his late 40’s with silver duct tape wrapped around the first and second fingers of his right hand. He told me he was working on his furnace a couple of days ago and badly cut himself on some sheet metal. He should have gone to the emergency room for care but did not have any health insurance. HE BONDED THE CUT WITH SUPER GLUE THEN WRAPPED HIS WOUND WITH DUCT TAPE! He explained to me that he was laid off from his job, collecting $250.00 a week in unemployment benefits and there was no money left over after expenses to cover a $500.00 emergency room visit. There are a couple of points that struck me. 1) This man was not complaining of his station in life; he felt he was personally responsible for his debts and had to prioritize his spending. 2) I do not know where he was laid off from, but even if a COBRA policy was available, who could afford anything on $250.00 per week of benefits.
I wonder what Jason Altmire’s response would be to this man’s plight? I do not know how congressman Altmire can sleep at night! Here in NW Mercer County, Signature Aluminum (formerly Werners) has pulled out and there are SCORES of people I personally know that are in this same situation with this healthcare issue.
In the run up to the vote I had “heard” Jason Altmire was keeping a “low profile” but when the time came he would vote in favor of the bill. Alas, this was not true. As a former lobbyist for the health care industry, Jason Altmire, it appears, is like a “Zebra who can’t change his stripes”.
This is just wrong in the United States of America!
Open Letter to Jason Altmire by Dr. Joe Talarico:
I am extremely disappointed, to say the least, in your failure to support HR 3962, the most recent iteration of health care reform legislation that passed in the House of Representatives. What is more distressing to me than your vote, however, is your explanation of that vote. Your motivation in opposing this vital legislation is your concern for the cost of providing health care, quality improvement, tax increases. You have apparently forgotten the reason that health care reform arose in the first place: 45 million Americans that forego adequate care, go bankrupt, and die because they are unfortunate enough to live in the only developed country in the world that does not recognize health care as a right.
On a daily basis, I see patients in surgery that are undergoing critical surgeries, often too late to save their lives, because they were left behind by the health care system in “the greatest country in the world.” In my own family, 4 of 5 of my adult children have been working and without health care for a significant amount of time since they entered the work force. I also have many friends and acquaintances who, because of significant health problems, have found themselves without care and too young for Medicare, being one diagnosis away from financial ruin. All are Americans who work hard, play by the rules, and are productive members of our society.
While I understand the concern for costs, especially in the present environment of federal deficits without an end in sight, I am puzzled that this concern did not enter into the decision to provide unlimited financing for the poorly planned and fiscally disastrous “war on terror.” The cost of providing every American with affordable health care is dwarfed by the cost of these imprudent initiatives.
From a political perspective, I am sure that calls and letters from the tea baggers far surpassed those from your base. However, it is hard to believe that, regardless of how you vote on any issue, any of them will ever become supporters. They voted for Hart twice in the past, and will vote for any right winger that challenges you in the future. In speaking with many of your supporters, it is clear to me that you cannot count on their unconditional support.
In closing, it is very easy for those of us with so much to forget that, in America, playing by the rules no longer guarantees even the bare minimum in benefits. Perhaps I am oversimplifying matters, but I honestly believe that the decision comes down to whether we want to live in a society that rules the world and leaves behind the most vulnerable, or a society that recognizes its appropriate place in the world (aggressively defending its interests, but recognizing that it cannot force its objectives on others in all circumstances), and cares for those with the greatest need. I choose the latter; I sincerely hope you will consider my views and those of your core supporters as the health care debate progresses.