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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
8:07 AM Mon, Sept. 24th

Talk of the Town: People need to get health care facts

Effective health care reform begins with informing citizens. People and organizations all over the nation are working to do just that.

The League of Women Voters of Arizona has published a document that is available to everyone with Internet access at http://centralyavapai.az.lwvnet.org/.

State and local members have taken a great deal of effort to explain and summarize myriad information pertaining to the current health care systems nation and statewide.

A great number of resources explain national health care so I want to share what I learned in the LWVAZ publication about Arizona only and tell you about two events where you can get more information.

Arizonans were carrying $2.5 billion in medical debt as of 2006. Five million, two-hundred thousand residents younger than 65 used at least $18 billion in health care services in 2006. The majority of health care expenditures for this population ($11.8 billion, or 65 percent) came from employer-sponsored insurance coverage (large employers, small employers, and government/military).

Twenty percent of Arizonans are uninsured, and 73 percent of them are in families with at least one full-time worker. Nearly 1 in 5 (19 percent) remained uninsured in 2006 despite increases in Medicaid rolls. For persons without coverage, more than six out of 10 said they had no regular source of health care. This is roughly three times the rate reported by those with insurance. The rate of delayed care among the uninsured is almost twice as employer-based coverage.

The percent of uninsured who did not obtain recommended prescriptions was 40 percent higher than among employer-covered respondents. Businesses and families shoulder a hidden health tax of roughly $1,700 per year on premiums as a direct result of subsidizing the costs of the uninsured.

Roughly 3.5 million people get health insurance on the job, where family premiums average $13,362 - approximately the annual earning of a full-time minimum wage job. Since 2000 alone, average family premiums have increased by 97 percent. Nineteen percent of middle-income families spend more than 10 percent of their income on health care. The percent of Arizonans with employer coverage is declining: from 60 percent to 55 percent between 2000 and 2007.

Much of the decline is among workers in small businesses. While small businesses make up 73 percent of Arizona businesses, only 32 percent of them offered health coverage benefits in 2006 - down 18 percent since 2000.

The overall quality of care in Arizona is "Average" when compared to other states. Choice of health insurance is limited in Arizona. Blue Cross Blue Shield AZ alone constitutes 43 percent of the health insurance market share, with the top two insurance providers accounting for 65 percent. Choice is even more limited for people with pre-existing conditions. Premiums can vary based on demographic factors and health status, and coverage can exclude pre-existing conditions or even be denied completely in some cases.

Fourteen percent of people report not visiting a doctor because of high costs. Eighteen percent of children in Arizona are obese. Nineteen percent of women older than 50 have not received a mammogram in the past two years. Thirty-six percent of men older than 50 have never had a colorectal cancer screening. Sixty-nine percent of adults older than 65 have received a flu vaccine in the past year.

Enough facts and figures. Two opportunities are coming that offer you a chance to get answers to your own questions. Both events will take place at the Adult Center of Prescott on 1280 E. Rosser St.

The "Change Begins with Yavapai County" is sponsoring a Community Health Care Forum Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. Panel members include: Lupe Solis, assistant state director for Advocacy for Arizona AARP, retired; state Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, District 15, and member of the Presidential Health Care Reform Panel; Dr. Sam Downing, former family practice physician in Prescott, medical director at the Good Samaritan Society, Prescott Home Health and Hospice; Peggy Nies, director of Community Health Center of Yavapai County; Tim Barnett, CEO, Yavapai Regional Medical Center. Call 928-443-9934 for more information.

Prescott Tea Party is sponsoring a Town Hall meeting 9 to 11 a.m., Saturday. Contact prescottteaparty@gmail.com or call 928-925-9894 for more information.

Kathy Lopez, a resident of Williamson Valley, is a former quality analyst for GTE. She is not a member of the groups mentioned in this essay.