When the dot.com economy went sour, lots of people in the information technology field found themselves struggling for work - including Harry Tyson.
|SMALL BUSINESS OWNER
Harry Tyson has his own business, but couldn't afford health insurance until he married a federal employee.
(Meggan Booker photo)
57, Mount Healthy
Type of insurance coverage: PPO through wife's federal job
Health coverage premium: $400 a month for two adults
Family health bills: About $100 a month for minor health needs
To make ends meet, Tyson launched his own business, Tycom Enterprises, which designs Web pages and provides other information technology services.
But health benefits have been out of the question for Tyson and up to 10 people he hires as contract employees when new jobs come in. The only reason Tyson has coverage is that his wife - whom he married three years ago - works for the federal government.
"Before I was married to her, I had to find my own insurance. It was hard to find and once you do, the costs are astronomical," Tyson says. "A lot of people have to do without."
The affordability of health benefits hits hardest among the smallest employers. While 98 percent of employers with more than 200 workers offer health benefits, just 55 percent of companies with three to five workers offer benefits, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Going without health insurance is risky at any time, but as people age, the risk increases. Many serious illnesses, from diabetes to heart disease to colon cancer, start showing up when people reach their 40s and 50s.
"I thank the Lord I didn't have any health problems. You get caught in your middle ages without health insurance, and it can be a big problem," Tyson says.