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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A few weeks after James and Carol Toney lost their health insurance last year, they kept an appointment with their regular doctor.
"When we got there, the woman out front told us we couldn't see him without insurance," said James Toney, 63.
"We were shocked . . . . He'd been our doctor for years. We thought he'd at least talk with us about it, maybe work out a sliding scale. But the minute you lose that insurance card, I guess they don't know you."
Toney had retired after 37 years spent maintaining machinery at Brewer & Company, a sprinkler business based in Charleston.
"I loved my job," he said, but his wife's 90-year-old mother had moved into their Cross Lanes home, and "somebody has to be with her all the time."
He and his wife, a former janitor, planned to buy insurance, but they found it cost too much. With their mortgage payment, "It was either lose the house or go without insurance."
So, like 253,000 other West Virginians, they went without insurance. Of those uninsured, six out of ten either work now or are retired, according to a WVU study.
"We never expected to be in that situation," Toney said. "We were lost. We didn't know where to turn."
He and his wife are diabetic and have high blood pressure. "Her insulin costs $200 a bottle, and she's got to have it," James Toney said.
"We went through a very scary time," Carol Toney said. "The money you think you've tucked away, it goes quickly, let me tell you. We even tried a fly-by-night insurance deal we saw on TV, but it didn't cover much of anything."
They didn't know they could get sliding-scale care at a community health center. They didn't know they could get their medicine for little or no charge through WVRX, the state-sponsored pharmacy.
Their blood pressure was rising, but they had no doctor. In an emergency, "we would have had to go to the emergency room and try to make payments."