Letter to the Editor: Many lacking insurance didn't choose that option

This letter was published today in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

While I agree that there is a critical need to expand health-care coverage, some of the information being put forth is misleading. For example, Michael Tanner ("A true count of the 'uninsured,' " Aug. 20) assumes families earning higher incomes make a choice to be uninsured. The reality is quite different. Families can earn well above the federal poverty level and still lack the ability to pay for insurance.

According to the Self-Sufficiency Standard for Pennsylvania, a four-person household in Philadelphia must earn $55,406 a year just to meet a bare-bones budget. Within this budget, we assume that an employer pays more than 80 percent of the health-insurance premiums, leaving the family to pay $324 in health-care costs each month. Average monthly premiums are actually more than $1,000 in Pennsylvania, which makes the average cost of health care more than 50 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four. If a member of that family has a preexisting condition or a serious illness, then the likelihood of obtaining affordable coverage diminishes further.

For an individual or family barely making ends meet, health-insurance costs are among those they simply cannot afford. Eliminating that from the household's budget becomes not a choice, but a reality.

Carol Goertzel





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