Coping with an ailing health insurance system
America's health care crisis widens to not only focus on the millions of uninsured, but on the growing number of people who are under-insured.
It is a situation that accounts for as much as 40-50% of personal bankruptcies. Much of the problem starts with the selection of the health plan itself. Now, most consumers are looking for an affordable monthly premium that covers the basics: doctor's visits, prescription drugs, and hospitalizations, in case of emergency.
But what seems like solid, basic coverage may be anything but when it comes to actually receiving medical care. Thirty-one-year-old Chris Bishop from Austin, Texas found that out the hard way. Two years ago while in the process of moving to Chapel Hill, North Carolina so that his wife Aaliyah could attend law school, he got chest pains, and called his insurance company to find out where he could get treated.
"I decided to call our health insurance company, to find the closest in-network place near us. So, we called their 1-800 number and started talking to them. We said we were in North Carolina, we had just gotten there two days before. We were hoping to go to 'ready care' place; we didn't want to go to an emergency room. We asked them what was in-network. Well, after a minute or two of them looking at the computer, they said, 'Well, unfortunately, we don't have any place in your state in-network. In fact, we don't serve people in North Carolina. So, we need your new address so we can cancel your policy in the next 90 days.' And, I was kind of dumb-founded; I didn't know what to do. Here I was suffering from chest pain, and I was just told that I was going to lose my health insurance because of it. I had no option, no alternative to get any care."
Ultimately, the Bishops hope that their situation will change once Aaliyah finishes law school and gets a job with good health care. But that reality could be several years away. In the meantime, both hope that something dramatic will happen with America's health care system.
"The Tavis Smiley Show" is a weekly show offering a unique blend of news and newsmakers in expanded conversations, along with feature reports and regular commentators. "The Tavis Smiley Show" is produced by Tavis Smiley productions, and distributed nationwide by PRI. This piece is a part of the "Tavis Smiley Show’s" series "My America 2008" which profiles the challenges and triumphs of everyday Americans and how their lives will be affected by the plans and policies of the Presidential candidates.
PRI's coverage of economic security is supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and its Campaign for American Workders.