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Rendell Publicizes Health Care Reform

Gov. Ed Rendell jumped back on the campaign trail, promoting his health care reform plan in the Hill District.

"It's not perfect, but it will get the job done," he told about 100 people in the Hill House on the first of a six-day, statewide bus tour pushing the plan, dubbed Prescription for Pennsylvania.

Rendell featured numerous problems with the state's present health care system, the large number of uninsured residents, the speedily increasing costs of insurance and treatment and the limits of insurance plans and outlined how his plan would remedy them.

One of the plan's main goals is to provide insurance for all Pennsylvanians by offering low-cost coverage to businesses, which have not offered health insurance to employees for at least six months, and charging a 3 percent payroll tax on those who still do not offer any.

Between 750,000 and 1 million Pennsylvanians, including 108,835 in Allegheny County, are uninsured, even though more than 75 percent of them have jobs, Rendell said. Health care costs are raising four times as much as companies' profits and five to six times as much as employees' wages, he said.

Rendell is proposing raising taxes 10 cents on each pack of cigarettes and implementing a tax on smokeless tobacco products. About $104 million from the federal government also would fund the plan, he said.

Rendell said his plan ought to lower the cost of health insurance by 20 percent to 30 percent for small businesses and 16 percent for large businesses within five years.

John Tague, vice chairperson of the board of the Consumer Health Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group, said following the governor's speech, "A lot of this is a common-sense approach to keeping costs down. It's actually getting to the costs of health care and the reasons health care is so high."

He said his organization supports Rendell's plan.

Tague said, "The biggest weakness is the perception that it's going to cost businesses a lot of money. I think, in the long run, it will save businesses money." The system in place now, however, costs everyone more, including businesses and individuals, he said.



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