Number Of Uninsured Grew By 3 Million In 2009; Health Safety Net Continues To Fray

Help from the new health law may not come soon enough for many Americans, according to a report.

The Chicago Tribune: "[T]he nation's health system is continuing to fray, raising the prospect that the country could experience a crisis before the law establishes a health care safety net in 2014. … [S]tate governments struggling with budgets savaged by the recession are contemplating further cuts in health care aid for the poor, despite the promise of more federal dollars. At the same time, several million unemployed Americans and their families who have used federal assistance to hold on to health insurance from work will lose coverage in coming months as the special assistance program expires. Those with jobs face their own challenges as employers continue to look for ways to pare back health benefits and shift more costs to employees, if not drop health coverage altogether. And people in all walks of life face rising health care prices and skyrocketing insurance premiums, which in many places are rising at double-digit rates this year."

Nancy-Ann DeParle, head of the White House Office of Health Reform, said the nation would experience a "'bridge period' until 2014, when Americans will get guaranteed access to health coverage along with billions of dollars of federal subsidies to help them pay their insurance bills. The Obama administration believes that a series of initiatives in the new health care law will help hold the line during this implementation period," including tax breaks for small businesses and high risk pools, but "early research suggests" that the early short-term aid "may be inadequate" (Levey, 6/20).

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