Armed with stats, AARP official takes health-care issues to state

An AARP rep says Ohioans face financial woes because of high health-care costs.
COLUMBUS -- Before her testimony before a Ohio House committee, JoAnn Lamphere did some quick research on health insurance rates in the state.
Online, she typed in her specs, specifically, her age (over 50) and her gender. The best deal: a policy costing 135 per month, with a 5,000 deductible, 20 percent co-insurance after the deductible and 40- 60 in co-pays for every service.
"This plan would cost an individual more than 6,000 a year, and the benefits are very restrictive," said Lamphere, national coordinator for government relations and advocacy for the American Association of Retired Persons, who focuses on state health and long-term care.
"Why would I buy it? For an individual making 1,702 per month or 20,000 a year, purchasing the plan I just described would account for more than 30 percent of their annual income -- just on health care."
Lamphere provided testimony Thursday before the House Healthcare Access & amp; Affordability Committee, outlining the association's priority issues and calling for greater public and private support and consumer responsibility in health care.
Agency's reach
AARP represents 38 million members, age 50 and older, including 1.6 million in Ohio, Lamphere said, adding that too many of those members and others are facing financial crises because of health care and insurance costs.
"Working families can't afford health insurance -- not just the poor, but the middle class," she said. "Premiums, deductible and out-of-pocket costs have become too high. Too many families have trouble paying their bills; too many have gone into serious debt or bankruptcy trying; and too many have skipped needed treatment, tests and prescriptions because they don't have the money to pay for it."
But Lamphere said her organization isn't advocating governmental control and funding of health care. Providers, insurance companies and private business, public agencies and consumers all must play a role in improving the situation, she added.
"Ohio should establish a minimum package of benefits to be offered to all individuals. ... Employers, individuals and government should all help to pay forhealth care," Lamphere said.
She added that improved policies and technologies could help reduce health-care costs, that individuals should be encouraged to adopt health lifestyles, and that residents dealing with chronic conditions should have access to ongoing, long-term services.
"The stakes are high in Ohio and elsewhere. If we don't succeed, quality of life for present and future generations will suffer in our small towns and communities," she said.