Not a good time to be uninsured in Pennsylvania

    Pennsylvania health care advocates say there are two notable milestones this week in the long-running push for affordable health care and insurance.

    The state’s low-cost insurance program AdultBasic ended six months ago. At the Spectrum Health Services clinics in West and North Philadelphia, lots of long-time patients are having more trouble paying their way. Marisa Rogers is Spectrum’s chief medical officer.

    “They’ve turned in to uninsured patients and accessing all those resources we supply for uninsured patients. We have our case management staff work with people and complete patient assistance applications,” Rogers said.

    Also this week, the federal COBRA subsidy expires. The program, a benefit of the 2009 federal stimulus package, let laid-off workers buy into their former employer’s health plan. It offered workers a 65 percent discount instead of requiring them to pay the premiums their former job once covered.

    Without the help, health care premiums are often unaffordable. Congress extended the program several times, but it has come to an end.

    “The long range view is we have the AdultBasic care ending, this subsidy ending for COBRA and it really is simply a challenging and hard time for people to remain insured,” said David Senoff, a lead attorney in a lawsuit challenging the end of AdultBasic.

    Senoff and others expect Pennsylvania’s uninsured count to rise.

    The Clinic medical center in Phoenixville has always served uninsured people but over the last year or so, many older patients are seeking care.

    Staff physician Susan Prouty says these newer patients typically have more complicated–and costly–health concerns.

    “High blood pressure, diabetes, that sort of thing, on medications that may be expensive, but they also may have had cancer and need specialized follow up, or some health screening issues that you might not see with younger patients,” Prouty said.

    Many of the new patients, who are in their 50s and 60s, are uninsured for the first time in their lives, she said.

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