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LIBERTY State legislator targets health plans



Published: Tue, April 2, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The congressional candidate says he's working on two measures to help with health insurance.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

LIBERTY -- State Rep. Anthony A. Latell Jr. of Girard, D-67th, has announced that he's sponsoring legislation that would help laid-off steel workers and retirees with health coverage.

Latell, a candidate for the 17th District congressional seat, called attention to the initiatives during a Monday press conference.

If approved, the state legislation would assure that every retired steel worker under age 65 who has lost hospitalization because of bankruptcy would have access to coverage.

Latell said the measure would allow the retirees and their spouses who are under age 65 to become part of the state employees' insurance plan. At 65, they would become eligible for Medicare.

Latell said he doesn't know what it would cost the retirees to buy into the plan. If the cost is too high, he explained, that plan can be supplemented by the state's "rainy day fund."

Failing companies: Accessing the state employees' plan, Latell asserted, is needed because of bankruptcies such as those of LTV Steel Corp., CSC Ltd. and other steel companies resulting the dumping of foreign steel onto the domestic market and company mismanagement.

The plan would provide lower insurance premiums than the cost of individual policies, he added.

Latell said he has co-sponsored with state Rep. Rose Mary Oakar, D-13th, a measure for laid-off workers not eligible for federal COBRA coverage because their former employers stopped offering health plans, filed for bankruptcy or shut down.

Workers would pay about $150 per month for single coverage and a maximum $300 for family coverage. If additional premiums are required, Latell explained, the state would subsidize the balance under the proposal.

Latell said his priority if elected to Congress will be legislation preventing what he termed the "immorality" of companies misusing retirement and hospitalization funds.

Worker's difficulties: Attending the news conference was Jerry Andrews of McDonald, who retired in 1982 from LTV on Social Security disability as the result of a mill accident and pointed to the high cost of insurance.

Andrews, 60, used Medicare as his primary coverage and LTV's hospitalization as his supplemental insurance and his wife Lana's primary coverage.

With the LTV bankruptcy, Andrews said, he now buys private supplemental coverage for himself for $190 per month, while his wife's primary coverage costs nearly $400 monthly.

"If I didn't have Medicare, I'd have nothing," Andrews said.




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