Sunday, April 4, 2004

Top medical worry: paying the bills

Going bare

Some people spend no money at all on health coverage. They can't afford to.

Norwood resident Mike Mayfield, 35, is among the 10 percent of survey respondents who say they lived part of the past year without any health insurance.

Mayfield knows he's taking a risk with his life by "going bare."

Dissatisfied with a sales job, Mayfield moved back in with his parents while he spent 31/2 years pursuing a teaching degree from Xavier University.

His low rent combined with income from part-time work with a painting company and as a substitute teacher were enough to cover about $20,000 a year for Xavier tuition and books. But the jobs didn't offer health benefits that he could afford.

"I looked into buying it for myself, but it would have cost $300 to $400 a month," Mayfield says.

Mayfield knew that going without insurance was a risk. He skipped playing softball for two summers because he knew he couldn't afford to get hurt. Then a few months ago, he developed a blood clot along his shin.

Mayfield paid about $200 for a doctor visit and prescription drugs that have helped treat, but have not cured, the clot. But he has not followed through with the doctor's advice to see a vascular surgeon, get an MRI scan and ultimately, have surgery to remove the clot - bills that could add up to several thousand dollars.

"It needs to come out. Otherwise, it could end up in my lung one night and I won't wake up," Mayfield says.

He hopes to land a full-time teaching job this fall. When the benefits kick in, he plans to get the clot treated.

"The doctors said I should go to the emergency room if I feel pain. It's been two months and so far, so good."

Part 4: 'Get me cheaper medicine' - Seniors struggle to balance fixed retirement incomes against rising costs.


Paying the bills
The rising costs of health care have spiraled into a crisis.
Full survey results
Return to special report front

Healthy lives, lower premiums
Most favor penalties for smokers, fat people and those who don't take care of themselves.
Employers offer incentives
Editorial: Don't blame others

A common fear
These families share a worry about the cost of health care.
Small business owner
Young professional
Living with chronic illness
Union worker
Concerned senior
Retired executive
More stories

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