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Nurses say Healthcare for More Working Pennsylvanians is the Right Rx

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PHOTO: So many patients come in without insurance, they present to the emergency room with a major problem, which costs taxpayers more in the end.
PHOTO: So many patients come in without insurance, they present to the emergency room with a major problem, which costs taxpayers more in the end.
HARRISBURG, Pa. - As Gov. Tom Corbett debates whether he will accept federal funds to provide health-care coverage to thousands of working women and men across Pennsylvania, nurses offer a perspective from the front lines of the Commonwealth's health-care system.

For some working people without health-care coverage, said Starr Romano, who works as a nurse in Altoona, this actually could be a matter of life or death, as it was for one of her patients who tried to go home despite needing emergency treatment.

"She had no health insurance. She kept saying she would have to pay for this and she may lose her jobs," Romano said. "If she would have left at the time, she may have died from a systemic infection because the appendix had ruptured."

While Corbett hasn't ruled out the option, he has expressed concern that expansion would burden the state budget - even though the federal government has committed to pay 100 percent of the costs for the first three years.

For many patients without insurance, said Kim Klinger, who has worked in northeastern Pennsylvania for more than a decade, the emergency roomn is their only access point for health care. It's the most expensive and least effective way to deliver care, she said, and it puts a strain on hospitals, nurses, doctors and patients.

"So many patients come in without insurance," she said. "They present to the emergency room with a major problem, which costs taxpayers more in the end for a major hospitalization for something that may have been a simple problem that could have been avoided."

The majority of uninsured patients seen by Pittsburgh nurse Susan McCarthy are working but still cannot afford health insurance. The terrible irony, she said, is that the lack of insurance exposes patients not only to higher risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure but also to the risk of medical bankruptcy if they fall seriously ill or have an accident. McCarthy said they often avoid or delay much-needed care.

"It's just really heartbreaking and it really should not be happening," she said. "People should not have to say, 'I can't go to the doctor because I don't have health care insurance.' In this country, everybody should have access to health care."

By accepting the funds set aside for Pennsylvania, Corbett would join other Republican governors including John Kasich of Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey, who have put aside politics to provide health care to citizens of their states.