The Times, Trenton

Even Small Co-Pays

The Times of Trenton — Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Times of Trenton Op-Ed
LAUREN AGORATUS

As a parent and advocate, I am deeply concerned about the lack of insurance coverage, nationally and in New Jersey. Despite mandated coverage in the state for children under 18, the Star-Ledger recently reported that the number of uninsured children in New Jersey has reached an all-time high of 360,000. There is also a proposal to freeze FamilyCare enrollment of parents up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level and institute Medicaid co-pays. Both of these will result in less coverage and decreased use of health care.

Research indicates that when parents have health insurance, children have coverage. A national study indicated that even minimal co-pays of $2–$3 resulted in less access to preventative and chronic care and prescriptions, which increased emergency-room use and hospitalization.

When children and adults do not have coverage, it results in poorer health outcomes and disparities. For example, a child with heart disease who doesn't have insurance is diagnosed two years later than his insured counterpart. An adult may not be diagnosed with cancer until stage IV rather than stage II, which is treatable. Not only is this not cost-effective because, as conditions worsen, they are more expensive to treat, but more important, there is increased morbidity and mortality. The Urban Institute estimated in 2008 that 22,000 adults died due to lack of health coverage.

A report from Families USA (familiesusa.org) found that:

What can be done? NJ Citizen Action has taken the lead in our state, forming a Health Care for America Now coalition of various statewide organizations, including Family Voices NJ (njcitizenaction.org/hcan.html). Nationally and in our state, HCAN supports the option of a choice of a public health insurance plan. This will address concerns that health care, which is mandated, is still affordable for all families. Besides access to care, there must be quality and standards. In this economy, the public option will serve as a safety net, a guaranteed backup if families lose their jobs. All families in New Jersey and the nation deserve quality, affordable health-care coverage.

Lauren Agoratus, M.A., is New Jersey coordinator of Family Voices, southern coordinator of Family to Family Health Information Center NJ, and New Jersey Caregiver Community Action Network-National Family Caregivers volunteer.

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