Cover America Tour ends in Washington, D.C.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Consumer Reports Health Finishes Cross-Country “Cover America Tour”

Tour Highlighting the Challenges Americans Face Getting Affordable, High Quality
Health Coverage is the Subject of Full Page Ads in Roll Call & The Hill Newspapers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Cover America Tour reached Washington, D.C. today ending its cross-country trip chronicling the stories of Americans who are having a tough time getting affordable, high quality health care. Sponsored by Consumer Reports Health, the tour was launched last May to help put a face on the health care challenges Americans are experiencing. The end of the tour coincided with a hearing by the Senate Finance Committee on covering the uninsured and was marked with full page ads in Roll Call and The Hill newspapers.
“Millions of American families are struggling to keep up with the high cost of health care and are vulnerable to financial ruin if a serious illness or accident strikes,” said Jim Guest, President of Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. “As the debate over health care reform heats up, we want to make sure that the voice of ordinary Americans is heard and their problems are addressed in Washington. For every dollar the health care industry spends lobbying, we intend to match it with consumer stories pushing for change.”
Consumers Reports Health has collected over 4,000 stories from Americans about their experiences with the health care system. Over the summer, the crew of the Cover America Tour traveled over 17,000 miles, posting videos of people talking about the difficulties they’ve faced. Over 50 of those videos and a blog about the tour can be seen at www.CoverAmericaTour.org.
Consumer Reports Health took out full page ads in today’s editions of Roll Call and The Hill newspapers to call attention to some of the problems Americans are experiencing. The ad features Cindy Shawcross of Fargo, North Dakota, a cancer survivor who is struggling to pay her $600 monthly premium. Cindy has exhausted her retirement savings to try to keep up with the payments. She recently lost her job and worries that she is on the verge of losing her coverage.
The stories chronicled by the Cover America Tour include Americans who cannot afford insurance, have coverage that is costly or doesn’t meet their needs, and those who have received poor quality care. Some of the other videotaped stories featured on the Cover America Tour web site include:
Paulette, New York, NY: In 2006, Paulette was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her employer-provided health plan covered 80 percent of her health costs, but she was left with $30,000 in medical debt. Paulette lost her coverage after she was laid off from work and now she can’t afford the follow-up care she needs. At 61, she won’t qualify for Medicare for another four years.
Amanda, Weiser, ID: Amanda and her husband have one son and another child on the way. Her husband has health coverage through his job, but they can’t afford an additional $736 each month to add Amanda and their son to the policy. Instead, they’ve opted for an individual health plan, which has a high maternity deductible. Between Amanda’s premium and the deductible, her health care costs will amount to half her family’s net income. These high costs will force Amanda to drop herself and her first son from the health plan after her second child is born.
Jeff – Billings, MT: Jeff and his wife have two small children and he runs his own construction inspection business. His health insurance premium has gone up nearly every year so he keeps switching health plans just to try to keep his costs down. Jeff’s deductible is so high that he recently put off needed care when he developed persistent stomach problems. Eventually he went to the doctor and ended up spending $5,000 out of pocket before finding out that his condition wasn’t serious.
Kim, Minneapolis, MN: In 2003, Kim’s husband of almost 10 years took his own life. After his death, Kim went through grief counseling to deal with her loss. Right before her COBRA coverage ran out, Kim applied for an individual health plan and was denied coverage because the insurer considered grief counseling a sign of potential mental illness. Kim was able to get coverage through another insurer, but only on the condition that she not file any counseling claims for two years.
Kerry, Conifer, CO: In 2004, Kerry fell off a ladder while painting his house and injured his arm. Following surgery, he was unable to move his wrist and hand. His doctor said the condition was temporary, but four and half months later it had not improved. It turned out that the nerves in his arm were damaged during surgery. Kerry had another surgery to correct the damage and developed a serious MRSA infection that required four additional surgeries before it cleared up.
Barbara, Le Mars, IA: Barbara’s employer-provided coverage was so expensive that she decided to purchase an individual plan. But her medical expenses still amount to about half of what she spends on her mortgage. These high costs make it difficult for her to save for her children’s college fund and retirement. Given her high out-of-pocket expenses, she says it sometimes feels like she doesn’t have health insurance.
“No matter who wins the election in November, there’s going to be a big debate next year in Washington about fixing America’s broken health care system,” said DeAnn Friedholm, Health Reform Director for Consumers Union. “Every American’s health care story is different, but one thing is clear. All Americans want affordable, high quality health care they can depend on when they need it most.”
Please Note: The Cover America Tour can connect reporters with Americans willing to be interviewed by the media about their health care experiences. To find out more, contact Michael McCauley at mccami@consumer.org
Michael McCauley – 415-902-9537 (cell)
Adrienne Hahn – 202-462-6262