AKRON, OH  – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today joined a diverse group of faith leaders and the executive committees of OPEN M and the Healthy Connections Network to discuss access to health care in Summit County.
“This economic downturn doesn’t just affect the finances of Ohio families—it can undermine their access to health care,” said Brown. “The services provided by OPEN M and other partners in the Healthy Connections Network are critical for so many Summit County families. Ensuring that all Ohioans have access to medical care is a moral issue.”
Brown was joined today by a diverse group of faith leaders to highlight the importance of ensuring all Ohioans have access to medical care, while Healthy Connections outlined the increasing demand for its services during times of economic hardship. In the past five years, Access to Care served 3,600 of the 22,000 uninsured residents of Summit County who live under 200 percent of the federal poverty level and are thus ineligible for Medicaid. According to a University of Akron "Return on Community Investment" analysis commissioned in 2007, Access to Care provides a five-dollar return for every one-dollar invested.
Brown announced $150,000 in new federal funds for Healthy Connections Network's Access to Care Program, a program whose many services include identifying sources of volunteer specialty care for patients at the OPEN M free clinic.  Brown secured $150,000 for the initiative in the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Act of 2010. These funds would be used to coordinate care donated by physicians, hospitals, and specialty services to eligible low-income adults. This program provides local solutions for servicing the growing number of individuals without health insurance. The bill including the funds must still be passed by the full Senate and reconciled with the House version before heading to the President’s desk for signature.

Ohio families and businesses pay a “hidden tax” of around $1,000 per year – meaning that insurers raise their premiums by an average of $1,000 to subsidize the costs of the uninsured. Nearly 400 Ohioans lose their health insurance each day. Eleven percent of Ohioans are uninsured – 64 percent of them are in families with at least one full-time worker.
Brown, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, is working to pass health insurance reform that reduces private insurance premiums and out-of-pocket health care expenses, while giving all Americans more affordable private and public insurance options during periods of unemployment.
The HELP Committee passed a health insurance reform bill with bipartisan input. More than 160 Republican amendments were accepted. Brown supports health insurance reform that includes the following elements:
•         Guarantees choice of plan for consumers (which includes keeping current coverage) while providing consumers new, more affordable private and public insurance options;
•         Reduces health care costs through market competition, stronger preventive services, better quality of care, and steps to root out fraud and abuse;
•         Strengthens prevention and wellness programs for millions of Americans;
•         Modernizes the health system and expands the health care workforce by investing in training for medical professionals and by better coordinating patient care;
•         Improves long term care and services for elderly and disabled Americans.