By Sharmina Manandhar
WASHINGTON – The struggle to maintain affordable health care coverage may end a Maryland family’s 14-year “good run” of operating their own businesses.
Silver Spring residents Cynthia and Eric Cathcart detailed how American middle-class families are suffering because of the high cost of health insurance at a news conference in the Capitol Tuesday. They were joined by Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Kay Hagan, D-N.C.; Ted Kaufman, D-Del.; Paul Kirk, D-Mass.; Patty Murray, D-Wash.; and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Eric Cathcart, 53, may have to “let it go” and “join a large organization” — forgoing his Potomac Talent LLC and other businesses — because the self-employed, middle-class family cannot afford the rising cost of health insurance, he said.
“The economy is working against me, so I just can’t afford to pay more for insurance,” Cathcart later said.
The family looked into joining a musicians’ union in hopes of getting cheaper rates, but found they’d pay $1,700 a month under the group plan, according to Cynthia Cathcart, 50.
So the Cathcarts applied to two different insurance companies. One rejected Eric, while the other turned down their son Alex, 17, because of their pre-existing conditions — obesity and mild autism, respectively, the family said.
The family ended up getting coverage through two policies — Eric Cathcart under one and his wife, son and their other son Brian, 19, under another, paying about $700 a month for premiums, he said.
The expense of health insurance is “setting up two classes of people — people who have it and people who don’t,” Cynthia said.
Middle-class families like the Cathcarts motivate the lawmakers to “make sure we get it done sooner rather than later,” said Cardin, referring to the Democrats’ efforts to pass health care reform legislation by the end of the year.
The Senate is awaiting analysis from the Congressional Budget Office on its health care reform legislation, Cardin said.
The House passed its health care bill Nov. 7, 220-215. Maryland Congressmen Frank Kratovil, D-Stevensville, and Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, voted against the legislation.
“The House-approved Democratic bill is a prescription for worse health care for all Americans,” Bartlett said in an e-mail message. “According to a new study released by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the House bill would increase the cost of health care, reduce health care services for senior citizens and reduce access to care for many middle-income Americans.”
Cardin underscored the urgency of health care reform saying 230 Marylanders lose their health care coverage every day.
Also, 71 percent of Marylanders are insured through one or two companies, according to Cardin.
“That’s not competitive,” Cardin said. “We need more choice in order to protect middle-income families in America.”
Cardin also said health care reform will help small business owners and self-employed workers stay in business, bringing down the unemployment.
“This is about saving jobs, this is about economic growth,” Cardin said. “Health care is draining our economy.”
The Democratic senators held a similar news conference last week with Mark Derbyshire, of Aberdeen, who owns Park Moving and Storage.