Gainesville Daily Register

June 29, 2009

Is health insurance affordable?


By DELANIA TRIGG

Register Staff Writer



For ten years, she took care of other people.

Now, Deborah Bradley — a former home health care worker— could use a little help of her own.

Medical problems and poor eyesight make it impossible for her to do the kind of work she once did including helping and socializing with her clients even during her time off.

“I worked at the Turner Apartments. I would take care of my clients. Then I volunteered after work for dinners twice a week. I called Bingo, I helped with a big pot luck supper once a month,” she said.

Then several injuries and accidents made walking difficult.

“My back and knees are out. I can’t see well enough to cook. How could I take care of my clients?” she said.

Being unable to work is only part of the problem.

For Bradley, routine health care or even a visit to a doctor is out of reach.

She said she applied for some state health care assistance programs but is ineligible for any of them.

Too young to qualify for social security benefits which include Medicare health assistance and unable to afford private health insurance, Bradley said she’s starting to give up hope.

“I used to go out and do a lot of things. Now I hardly ever go anywhere,” she said.

She said she applied for indigent care through North Texas Medical Center.

The hospital does provide a limited amount of care for county residents with very low incomes.

But again, Bradley said she did not qualify for the local program.

“They told me I am eligible for what’s called charity care, but that’s limited to emergency room visits,” she said.

Charity care patients receive assistance for acute medical situations.

It does not pay for routine checkups or services such as eye glass prescriptions, she said.

There is also another problem.

After a wrist injury, Bradley said an ER physician referred her an orthopedic surgeon.

“I went to the emergency room, but after they did the X-rays they referred me to another doctor and I can’t afford to go to him,” she said.

Bradley has nothing but praise for NTMC staff members whom she said “looked everywhere” to try to find health care assistance for her.

Despite the hospital’s diligence, she said she still hasn’t found a health care program she can afford.

In pain and hoping to find help outside the county, Bradley began searching for charity clinics in Texas.

“My good friend went online and did a search of free clinics. The only two she found were in Houston and El Paso,” she said, shaking her head. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Bradley is one of approximately 47 million Americans who have no assistance when it comes to paying for health care.

There are a handful of state and federal programs to help certain individuals obtain medical care but, like many others, Bradley said she hasn’t qualified for any of them.

Texans seems especially hard hit by health care woes.

According to healthreform.gov, an official government Web site of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 25 percent of people in Texas are uninsured and 75 percent of them are in families in which at least one member is working full-time.

And for those who can obtain health care coverage through their employers, the price of premiums has increased 104 percent since 2000.

Family premiums average $13,525, the site stated, noting that the price of premiums is about the same as the annual income for a minimum wage worker.

That leaves millions of people hanging their hope on some type of federal health care plan.

In a prime time address, President Obama talked about his health care reform initiative.

He has said his proposals would include cost-cutting measures and changes that would force private insurance companies to rein in their premiums.

He also has said his proposal would allow those who cannot afford to purchase health insurance through their employers or to obtain private insurance to purchase coverage from a marketplace where private insurance companies and public insurance plans would compete.

Obama’s plan to help all Americans get health care coverage doesn’t sit well with many.

“A government plan option — in any form — is unnecessary to achieve comprehensive reform and would have devastating consequences on the health insurance coverage,” said a letter from officials of America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

Another criticism is that a federal insurance plan would result in the government taking over the insurance industry and crowding out private insurance companies — a notion that Obama has said is false.

“If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care, if they tell us that they’re offering a good deal, then why is it that the government, which they say can’t run anything, suddenly going to drive them out of business? That’s not logical,” the President said. “They should be able to compete.”

While Obama tries to sell his plan to legislators and the American public, the legions of uninsured residents continue to grow.

Some, like Deborah Bradley, aren’t sure where to turn.

“There’s no place to go for help,” she said.

On the Web:

To find out more about possible changes in the national health care system visit www.healthreform.gov.