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VIEWPOINT: Fighting for family financial security

ROLETTE, N.D., -- When I was first starting out as a teacher in 1970, my starting salary was $6,000. Today, a starting salary for a teacher is about $28,000. That is an increase of about 475 percent.

ROLETTE, N.D., -- When I was first starting out as a teacher in 1970, my starting salary was $6,000. Today, a starting salary for a teacher is about $28,000. That is an increase of about 475 percent.

My first car cost $3,000, and a similar car bought today costs $30,000. That is an increase of about 1,000 percent. A gallon of gas has increased about 750 percent, from 36 cents a gallon to $2.70 a gallon.

Back then, my Blue Cross Blue Shield family health insurance plan cost $29 a month, with a deductible of $25 for doctor visits and $25 for hospital visits. Now, a similar plan costs $1,000 a month, with deductibles in the vicinity of $2,500. That is an increase of 3,450 percent for the monthly cost and 5,000 percent for deductibles.

Do you see the difference? The cost of health insurance has increased 3,450 percent to 5,000 percent, compared with about 750 percent to 1,000 percent for other costs. All the while, salaries have not increased at the same rate.

The truth is that North Dakotans and people around the country have seen health insurance costs take up more and more room in their family budget, if they can get insurance at all. The high cost of health insurance leaves families one illness away from financial ruin, and leaves their health and the health of their children at risk.

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These are the facts. This is happening in North Dakota right now. All of the noise that we have heard from out-of-state groups in the state does nothing to dismiss the fact that North Dakotans are spending more money for health insurance and getting less for it. Misleading information from Republicans and big-business interests doesn't address the situation of the American middle class family, who are getting squeezed by these costs.

You should be able to live and work in this country without the knowledge that you are one illness away from bankruptcy. You should be able to raise children without having to worry about the cost of a doctor's visit and to know that when they are starting out on their own, they will be covered. You should be able to be tested for a hereditary disease or risk factor without knowing that it will disqualify you from ever getting insurance -- and force you to pay for the costs out of pocket.

This is what health care insurance reform is all about--the financial and physical security of you and your family. When you listen to the Republicans try to scare you away from supporting reform, think about your family budget. Can you afford for your health care costs to keep increasing? Can you afford your premiums now? More important -- can you afford to get sick?

Boucher, a Democrat, is minority leader and represents District 9 in the North Dakota House.

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