A town hall meeting in Des Moines today discussed the growing number of people in Iowa who don’t have health insurance. State Representative Wayne Ford, a democrat from Des Moines, was one of the panelists for the “Cover the Uninsured Week” event. He says 329-thousand Iowans, equal to the combine population of 164 towns, do not have health care coverage. Eight out of ten people who’re uninsured are from working families and more than 68-thousand kids are without health care coverage. Ford says as the costs continue to rise, fewer companies are able to provide health insurance coverage for their employees. Ford works with low-income families in Des Moines and says the lack of health insurance leaves many people with tough choices. He says he sees it every day where a poor mother comes in and says she needs medicine, but she needs to get some food. Ford says studies show the problem is biggest among minorities. He says the survey show working Hispanic and black adults are more likely to be uninsured than white adults. “What it’s saying is, even if blacks and Latinos are working in a company, because the pay is so low or something, they cannot even afford health care coverage. So those people who’re even working can’t get it.” Rachel Lewis is the outreach coordinator for a program in Des Moines that seeks to bring health care coverage to the uninsured. Lewis says she found another barrier after hiring a woman to work in her office. She says “Even though she was fluent in English and Spanish, she too was confused and overwhelmed by the process of enrolling herself in the insurance program that was offered through our employment.” Lewis says she was surprised to hear the woman talking her appointment at a free clinic, and says the woman didn’t have insurance even though it had been offered. Former Governor Robert Ray moderated the meeting and says lack of health insurance didn’t get as much attention when he was governor. he says he can’t remember it being the issue it has become. But he says about a dozen years ago, the Clintons understood the problem, but their execution of the solution made it fail. Ray, who is also a former insurance company executive, says things aren’t going to get better. He says it’s going to grow as there’s nothing to stop it. Ray says the problem feeds on itself as the more the costs go up, the fewer people are in the system, and the fewer people there are in the system, the more costs go up. Ray says there has to be a move toward getting everyone a core benefit package, and he says some people are going to need some financial help to afford it.
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