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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Falling between the cracks

Erin Kelly

Staff Writer

No matter which side of the health reform debate you fall on, one thing is certain: premiums have been rising sharply, and hard-working American families are struggling to afford the high costs.

A 2009 Families USA study showed that from 2000-2009 health insurance premiums skyrocketed, while wages have remained at a standstill-causing a strain on family budgets.

Thanks to the economy, those lucky enough to keep their jobs often see their share of health insurance premiums go up, while their salary stays the same. Other workers are required to pay more out of pocket for services each year, while still more lose their coverage entirely. As health care costs continue to rise, more and more workers are priced out of job-based coverage. Currently, many of these workers and their families are forced to face the wild west of the individual insurance market or go without coverage entirely.

Because of health reform, however, Americans are no longer left out in the cold when it comes to purchasing coverage. Those who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford the high cost of insurance in the individual market will finally get the relief they've been waiting for. And those who have ever been sick and have seen their premiums unfairly jacked up will now be eligible to receive financial assistance-so no one will be priced out of the system.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has a cool calculator that allows you to plug in information about your family and income to figure out if you're eligible for a government subsidy. All you have to do is answer a couple of easy questions.

Before health reform, millions of Americans were priced out of the system and fell through the cracks. Now, hard-working, middle-class families can rest assured that they finally have a safety net that will catch them when they need it.