CLEVELAND, OH - U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) will join President Obama in Strongsville today as the President makes a final push for the passage of comprehensive health reform. Sen. Brown will greeted President Obama at Cleveland Hopkins Airport and join the motorcade to Walter F. Ehrnfelt Recreation and Senior Center. Following the event, Brown will travel back to Washington with President Obama aboard Air Force One.

"We can't forget that health reform is about people," Brown said. "It's about ensuring that health coverage is dependable - even if you get sick or lose your job. It's about investing in small businesses - so they don't have to choose between covering their employees and meeting their expenses. It's about preventing insurance companies from denying care if you have a pre-existing condition, or placing a limit on the amount of care you can receive. Inaction on health reform is not an option."

Yesterday, Sen. Brown distributed tickets for today's event to several Ohioans who wrote him about the urgent need to pass health reform. Brown, one of the Senate's strongest advocates for health reform, has gone to the Senate floor on a near-daily basis throughout the health debate to share the letters and personal stories of more than 100 Ohioans.

Attendees included a small business owner from Lyndhurst, who purchased her own insurance for the business. Her premiums increased dramatically over the years, even though she raised deductibles and cut back on coverage to try to fend off these increases. When she was recently diagnosed with a serious illness, she learned that her policy only covers $5,000 for outpatient expenses - leaving her with huge out-of-pocket costs. She wrote to Sen. Brown in Sep. 2009, who discussed her letter as part of this speech on the Senate floor. Health reform would allow small business owners to pool together to demand better rates from insurers while also providing them with tax credits to help lower their insurance costs. Additionally, insurance companies would no longer be allowed to place arbitrary annual or lifetime caps on the benefits in their policies. Limits will also be placed on cost sharing requirements to prevent enrollees from facing huge out-of-pocket costs.

A retiree from Lake County also attended. He lost his job in 2001 and went on temporary COBRA benefits. His eligibility for COBRA ran out when he was 58, and he was denied insurance based on his pre-existing conditions of diabetes and heart disease. The only insurance he could find on the private market cost $24,000 a year. Once he turned 65, he was able to get coverage through the Medicare program. He wrote to Sen. Brown in Sep. 2009, who discussed his letter as part of a speech on the Senate floor. Health reform would prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on medical history, age, gender, or pre-existing conditions. It would also prevent insurers from using these factors to overcharge enrollees.

A third attendee at Sunday's event was the owner of a group home in Rocky River for persons with disabilities. The owner employs 250 people who make about $8.50 per hour. He provides health insurance for all staff members who work at least 24 hours per week because he knows that many of these part-time employees have to work one or even two other jobs to pay bills, groceries and utilities. Last fall, he began negotiations with his company's insurance carrier to cover his 250 employees in 2010. He was informed that his company would see an 84 percent increase in health insurance rates - and increase of nearly $500,000 - from last year. He was told this is because he has one employee who had a heart attack and another whose spouse needed dialysis treatment. Fortunately, he recently discovered that United Way could help share the burden of health insurance costs. Even with these critical resources, he still expects a 40 percent increase in rates this year. He first contacted Sen. Brown's office in Oct. 2009. Sen. Brown discussed his story as part of a speech on the Senate floor. Health reform would help business owners not only be preventing insurers from overcharging employers based on the health conditions of individual employees, but by establishing a rate review commission to ensure premiums are reasonable relative to underlying health care trends.

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