“I can’t believe more people aren’t getting more upset about this,” Hartford City Councilman Luis Cotto said in reference to the ongoing healthcare crisis in Hartford and across the country. Cotto was speaking at a rally held Thursday afternoon in front of Aetna Insurance on Farmington Avenue.
According to the Working Families Party (WFP), which organized the protest, an estimated 34,000 Hartford residents currently lack healthcare or are under-insured. That is enough people to fill the Hartford Civic Center to capacity two times over. About 50 people attended Thursday’s rally.
The rally was timed to coincide with Aetna’s release of its latest quarterly and annual earnings reports. According to a WFP statement, “More and more people are finding health insurance unaffordable. Health¬care costs are rising fast much faster than inflation. Health emergencies are the biggest cause of personal bankruptcy in the nation. Despite this crisis, health insurance companies are hugely profitable and CEO pay is skyrocketing.”
Aetna is certainly making money. According to the company website, “Aetna announced fourth-quarter 2007 operating earnings of $0.88 per share. The increase in operating earnings per share reflects 12 percent total revenue growth, primarily from quarter-over-quarter membership growth and premium and fee rate increases, as well as solid underwriting results and continued general and administrative expense efficiencies.”
Aetna spokesman Fred Laberge said the company makes “a fair profit by demonstrating our ability to manage health care quality and costs for our customers, running our business efficiently and continuing to grow. After paying for medical services for our more than 16.8 million members, as well as operating expenses and taxes, we make about 6 cents in profit for every premium dollar we take in. That 6 cents in profit is returned to shareholders, used for charitable giving and reinvested in our business.”
Like many others, Laberge said Aetna is looking to the government to solve the country’s healthcare crisis. “Regarding the uninsured, our position is that expanding access and increasing the affordability of quality health care should be our top national domestic priority ...we must work with the public sector to increase access and spread the risk of coverage for all in an equitable and appropriate manner.”
However, the government’s efforts to provide affordable healthcare coverage for all Americans has been hindered by inter-party strife on both the national and state levels.
The subject comes up frequently in debates among various presidential candidates but an actual plan will be a while in coming – if it ever comes at all.
The State of Connecticut does have the HUSKY plan, which provides healthcare for children and youths up to age 19. HUSKY can also provide health coverage for parents, relative caregivers and pregnant women, depending on income. State Representative Marie Kirkley-Bey (D-5) said membership in the HUSKY program increased by 1,601 people last year.
Unfortunately, many working adults don’t qualify for the HUSKY program and can neither get healthcare insurance through their place of employment nor afford to pay for it on their own. This is especially true in Hartford, where many people are working two or three part-time jobs, none of which provide healthcare coverage.
To help remedy the situation, Mayor Eddie Perez announced earlier this year that he is setting up a task force to assist the uninsured. The Task Force will look at a private sector options to determine if an affordable plan is available that provides a basic level of care for the healthcare needs of Hartford’s uninsured. This would include full coverage for preventive care, chronic disease management, some level of prescription coverage and other services. The Task force will also look at potential ways to make the Charter Oak Plan affordable to residents. The Charter Oak Plan, only plans to insure 32,000 people by 2011 statewide at a cost of $3000 or more a year for those ineligible for HUSKY.
According to the Mayor’s office, the overall goal of the Task Force is to forge a public/private partnership that could provide a basic healthcare plan for Hartford residents that would cost no more than $100 a month.