How does the rising cost of health care and health insurance affect you and others you know? Send us your story and point of view. We will forward all letters and e-mails to the state planners who are trying to put together options for uninsured people. Send to: Everybody at Risk, The Charleston Gazette, 1001 Virginia St. E., Charleston, WV 25301. Or e-mail gaze...@wvgazette.com. Put "Everybody at Risk" in the subject line of your e-mail message.
With the above points in mind, the Sunday Gazette-Mail invited readers to send us the view from where they sit. As these selected letters show, West Virginians of all stripes are indeed at risk:
My husband retired from Arch Coal in 2000 at the age of 65. A year and a half later, he returned to work because we couldn't afford my and our son's insurance, which was almost $900 monthly.
Now our son is in college, and my husband is 68 years old and not working again. I'm only 45. We can no longer afford insurance for me because of arthritis and our son has no insurance.
I have pain from morning to night because I can't afford the Celebrex they give me for arthritis. I would like to get a job, but I don't think I could hold a job due to the pain.
If my husband and I weren't married, I could get a medical card because of no income. What price do people like us have to pay in order to get the help we need?
I am a 58-year-old, self-employed, uninsured male. I had insurance for approximately 30 years with the same provider. About a year ago, it became financially unmanageable ($840 monthly for a $5,000 deductible), and I had to drop coverage.
Six months later, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I am taking radiation treatments, financed by cashing in my retirement funds.
The insurance on my wife and son just increased by $100 monthly. She is currently paying $507 monthly for a $5,000 deductible. It is only a matter of time until the insurance company achieves what they set out to do — eliminate our entire family from coverage.
We have written our senators and congressmen on this issue and only get letters of sympathy. I hope the news media has more influence than the average citizen seems to have.
Paul Flippin Jr.
The legal, medical, and insurance industries have all gotten in bed together, beginning with huge awards by juries maneuvered by clever lawyers. These awards against doctors and hospitals are paid by the insurance company and passed on to the consumer in higher premiums. Hospitals are filled with all sorts of expensive modern testing equipment (which needs to be paid for). This, coupled with the need to protect themselves, tends to cause the hospital and doctors to order an excessive amount of tests, thereby increasing the insurance payment, and around and around it goes.
I have no medical insurance. My small business cannot afford it. The plan to double the premium should result in more people joining me and less money to the insurance companies, less money to the medical and legal professions, and so the ball will unravel.
The system will fix itself because it must. In the meantime, I guess a lot of us will have to die without the aid of doctors or hospitals.
Robert B. Morrison
When I retired roughly two years ago, my PEIA health insurance cost $137 a month. Effective July 2002, that amount raised to $158 per month. I now receive assistance with my insurance and prescription co-pays. It helps, but the alarm is just under the surface.
How do other countries manage to offer their citizens free or low-cost health care? Perhaps looking at their methods would show West Virginia a path to pursue.
Listening to NPR recently, I heard about a health-care plan provided by the state of Utah. Is anyone there familiar with it? Sounded good!
Having retired from state employment (DHHR) after 25 years, I had a firsthand look at people who coped without any type of medical coverage. The last three years I worked, I evaluated recipients for the Medicaid program. Even Medicaid is restrictive in who a policy allows it to cover. There is nothing for the healthy person, regardless if they are working or not.
Day after day, I encountered poor people who lied to get this meager offering from DHHR. And sad to say, some came into the office gravely ill and then would have to be turned away, because they could not meet a spend-down*.
I also have a son who lives with me and could be classified as underemployed. He works in construction, hanging drywall for a private contractor who cannot afford to provide health insurance.
Recently, he enrolled in a program offered by Boone Memorial Hospital for people who have no insurance at all. It is without cost, due to his status as underemployed. It offers no prescription coverage, and he is limited as to where he can go for treatment. Fortunately, he has not had to use it thus far.
In summary, there is no affordable insurance plan in the state of West Virginia for the underemployed. This really makes a good argument for socialized medicine, as they offer in Canada, which I agree with. I would be willing to pay the 15 percent sales tax, as they do, for medical coverage for all.
* Editor's Note: In Medicaid terms, a spend-down is like a deductible. If a person makes too much to be eligible for Medicaid, he or she must run up a certain amount of medical bills to be eligible for help. That amount is the difference between the person's income and the Medicaid eligibility levels.