Uninsured Consequences

Altoona, Penn. -- Vicky Zeoli has always had a love for books. She reads three a week. So when her three kids were out of the house and her husband had a good stable job, she decided to make the hour-long drive to Penn State University each day to go to college for the first time. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education when she was 53.

That’s when her life took an unexpected turn. Her husband lost his job and with it, her medical insurance. Then she had a stroke.

Her health has recovered, but her finances have not.

“This has been the worst time for us,” Zeoli said, holding back tears. “We’re behind in our mortgage payments. We were in foreclosure. We almost lost the house.”

When school started this fall she was able to make enough money by substitute teaching to catch up on the $350 monthly mortgage payments, but at 61, she says it’s nearly impossible to get a fulltime teaching job with health benefits. Administrators prefer younger candidates, she said. At one point, she even tried getting job at Wal-Mart, but was told she was overqualified because of her degree.

Zeoli’s husband, Don, 57, became disabled after losing his job and collects social security disability payments, but that doesn’t include medical insurance.

After being rejected for medical insurance through Pennsylvania’s welfare agency (her income was over the limit), she started going to a free clinic funded by the local hospital and staffed by volunteer doctors. She credits the clinic with saving her life.

“I can’t afford the medicine,” said Zeoli, who is an insulin-dependent diabetic, “The insulin is way out of my price range.”

Zeoli’s doctor, Zane Gates, has recently seen a “dramatic increase” of people like Zeoli seeking free medicine in the clinic.

“When I first started, it was mostly people who had been suddenly unemployed,” he said. “Now it’s mostly the employed. With the economy getting worse and worse and worse that number is going to skyrocket.”

Both presidential candidates offer health plans to help cover the 46 million Americans, who like Zeoli, lack medical insurance. Gates prefers Barack Obama’s plan because he believes it will cover more people. He has doubts, however, that it will pass even a Democratic Congress because of the huge price tag.

“We might be able to put more people on insurance but with a 9.9 percent inflation rate in health care it’s not sustainable financially for this country,” Gates said.

Zeoli is fed up with the rhetoric of the campaign and both candidates. From her perspective, the issue is simple.

“I need medical coverage that I can afford,” she said.

By Travis Fox  |  October 31, 2008; 3:56 AM ET  | Category:  In-Depth
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Needs health insurance? Sounds like some kind of socialist to me!

Posted by: BobT3 | October 31, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Health insurance is going to become a growing concern. With all the talk the Republicans talk about fostering and encouraging small business, they don't seem to realize that many people can not get health insurance (because of preexisting conditions) except through their employer. There people will never start their own business because of the inability to get insurance. I ran my own business for several years but gave up on because the health insurance costs were just too high in a non group plan. McCain's tax credit would not begin to cover what I paid for a non group plan 10 years ago.

Posted by: mdembski1 | October 31, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the title of this should be "I need more medical coverage than I can afford", or "I want more medical coverage than I'm willing to pay for and you should pay for it for me because you have an obligation to because I said so, so pay up."

Posted by: ZZim | October 31, 2008 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Move to Canada. Everyone has coverage and our country isn't nearly in as bad of an economic mess as the USA.

Posted by: beemer2005 | October 31, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I too am fed up with the GARBAGE Washington keeps espousing!

First and foremost-It is the abuse of the Emergency Rooms by people who never pay for the very expensive treatments. This cost then gets dumped on the people that do! IT, is one of the single biggest reasons costs keep getting out of hand!

Second, the reason that burden keeps getting exponentially larger-it is fueled by the exponentially increasing number of Illegals, and others working "Under the Table"!

Third, the Costs associated with the Births of women who again, are many times illegal, but then adding insult to injury, their offspring become instant SCHIPs recipients as US Citizens!
Oh, and NOW we cannot break up a "Family"(Rolls Eyes-And Curses Nancy Pelosi for Stalling HR 1940-Birthright Citizenship Act!)

Fourth, and probably the biggest problem-NOBODY is talking Heath Care! The keep using the "I" Word! Many Insurance Policies are BOGUS! What is not covered, or who you can use, or WHERE! are just ridiculous! Many Doctors are much more affordable by just paying directly, as they have to mark up their bills three fold, just to get a Third of it by the Insurance companies-Finally! WHY are the Middle-Men being allowed to Rape and Pillage SOOOOOO Badly!

Wouldn't it be better to just pay a Premium DIRECTLY to a Hospital group?

Now, since I like to propose solutions to back up my condemnations(Should not complain if you don't have a solution in my opinion!), I have suggested this:

Expand the Military System.

This serves SEVERAL purposes! First, MANY Vets are from very rural areas. No Vet Hospitals for Hundreds of miles! THEY deserve better! How many of them, are the so called "Un-Insured"?
Second, in event of a possible biological or other assault, the Federal Government would have First responders located locally!
Third, the rules are more relaxed! Military Hospitals exist in a more tort-free environment, and are able to allow Practitioners to Earn, while they Learn! Example: A Practitioner does not need to be a full Dermatologist to Burn off a wart, or sarcoma!
This ability to help offset expenses, and train while learning, offers many poorer people a step up into the otherwise very expensive to get into field!
Finally, no Insurance? YOU go to the Fed Hospital! Illegal? YOU came to the right place to begin your re-patriotism! Anchor Baby? No mas! It was born in a neutral Zone! Seems it was Born en route BACK to the Mother's Home Country!

While NOT Perfect, this would greatly reduce the costs of Private Practice, which would inversely, reduce the load upon it!

Posted by: SAINT---The | October 31, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Look, this is really simple. If you are a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, the cost of your medical needs should taken care of by the government. Who pays? We all do, through income taxes. Yes, income taxes will have to go up on people with upper middle class and upper class incomes (though this will be greatly mitigated by no longer having to pay for health insurance). Perhaps some upper middle class will no longer be able to afford luxury cars or second homes at the beach. Too bad. Giving everyone health care trumps that. Under the current system, everyone, except the super rich, is at risk anyway - even an upper middle class person can lose his or her job and medical insurance because of a serious and expensive illness or subsequent to losing medical insurance, and then savings are quickly wiped out and a life time of work results in bankruptcy.

Health care is a human right, and while some may have nicer houses or nicer cars in a capitalist society, health care is a matter of life and death, and one's level of income should not decide life or death. Rich or poor, everyone should get the same health care. Anything less is immoral, vicious, and makes a mockery of Jesus' entreaty "to love your neighbor as yourself."

Posted by: AnonymousBE | October 31, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I own a business with employing about 30 people. I am at great IRE when the Conservatives aspouse the High Taxes discourage business.

That is a bunch of crap.
THE Millions of single person owned business formed just because of the tax advantages.

WHat is killing msall busines sis he cost of Insurance. It broke when Reagan Raiders came into office.

We just got our renewal from Kaiser Permanent 48% increase.

It has been increase at 30% per year before that.

Mostly because our average age increased.
Which is making our family plan jump from $1130/month to $1780/month.

Not only has it gone up.
BUT every year we have to give up some feature to keep it lower such as higher Co-Pays.

The NEOCONS have destryed the foundation of our country to make it all Capitalist.

Well it is not working..we need a dose os SOcialism back ntot he country.

FOr those that do not kwnow what socialism is READ...

YOu will find our out Constitution is about Socialism and Capitalism and about FAIRNESS and JUSTICE.

We have been trickled down and yet nearly half the population still wants more of the same pain.

Republican for Obama and Biden
There is no other choice


Posted by: Issa1 | October 31, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Vicky Zeoli has a rather bizarre request... that the candidates represent the interests of Americans! What foolishness...

Posted by: TerrifiedAmerican | October 31, 2008 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Previous post: "If you are a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, the cost of your medical needs should taken care of by the government. "

Why should the government pay for the health costs of it's citizens? Let the government establish a menyu of health plans that insurers are willing to offer and allow small businesses uses these plans. By themselves, the plans may be too expensive of a small business, but when the many small businesses sign up, the cost will become more reasonable.

Posted by: ahashburn | October 31, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

We, as a society, are going to have to SH** or get off the pot (as my dad used to say) over what we stand for.

IF we are a "Christian" country (as the religious right seems to feel), then it is out duty to take care of our brothers. After all, isn't that what their savior taught? So, THAT MEANS UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE!

If we are a "you're on your own" country (as the Republicans seem to feel), then NO UNIVERSAL HEALCARE and we should let people die and bury them in a mass pit somewhere.

So, what's it going to be?

Posted by: Madjack11 | October 31, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

ZZim said: "I want more medical coverage than I'm willing to pay for and you should pay for it for me because you have an obligation to because I said so, so pay up."

INSULIN?!?! Insulin for her diabetes, that's a "want", not a "need"???? One of the richest countries in the world, and we can't afford somehow to make sure she gets the insulin she needs???? You are a sick, sick individual, and I sincerely hope that, someday, you or a loved one needs medical treatment, can't afford it, and dies a slow, painful death.

Posted by: Dan4 | October 31, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Like it or not people without insurance get sick and run up large hospital bills. Hospitals know they won't get paid so they increase their costs to cover the uninsured. That is passed onto insurance companies who then pass on the increase to policy holders - with a nice profit margin added on. Let's be honest and call this cost increase what it really is - a universal health care tax paid only by people with insurance.

Are all people without insurance deadbeats. Not the ones with an existing condition who want to buy insurance, but can't get approved. And then there are those with health insurance that doesn't cover what it should. My wife has acute leukemia and our $1,200 a month insurance is fighting over $80,000 in payments.

And the greed in medicine is creeping into areas that are surprising. When I started donating blood at the Red Cross it was well known that it a family member or friend needed blood you could donate in their name (and get others to do the same) and it would reduce the costs of the transfusion. Not any more. Blood is $1,000+ per unit and they don't care how much has been donated by family members. (My brother-in-law leads the family with 125+ donations.)

We are at a point where major changes to our medical system need to be made. There needs to be reasonable and responsible discussions on how to move forward and, because of the volatile nature of this area it is going to need corporations to lead the way, followed by small business groups, and various medical groups. If the CFOs of large companies take a hard look at alternatives to the current situation I believe universal care will rapidly change into a conservatives issue.

Posted by: KHMJr | October 31, 2008 2:40 PM | Report abuse

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