Sunday, April 4, 2004

Risk of going bare vs. impossible costs



SMALL BUSINESS OWNER
Harry Tyson
Harry Tyson has his own business, but couldn't afford health insurance until he married a federal employee.
(Meggan Booker photo)

HARRY TYSON
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

When the dot.com economy went sour, lots of people in the information technology field found themselves struggling for work - including Harry Tyson.

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.

More stories from Greater Cincinnati families:
Chronically ill or 'ridiculously healthy." Workers, self-employed or retired. Young or old. A spectrum of lifestyles and incomes. But these Greater Cincinnati families share a worry about the cost of health care, now and in the future.
Harry Tyson SMALL BUSINESS OWNER
Risk of going bare vs. impossible costs
Harry Tyson started a company after the dot.com bust, but health benefits have been impossible.
Rich Hancock YOUNG PROFESSIONAL
Satisfied for now, unsure about later
Though happy with his coverage, Rich Hancock worries as his parents spend more for health care.
Lisa James CHRONIC ILLNESS
Insurance changed and bills soared
When Lisa James' husband took a new job, it turned into a coverage nightmare.
Keith Glassmeyer UNION WORKER
A strong benefit that may not last
Keith Glassmeyer says health-care benefits are the biggest concern among fellow workers.
Betty Stevens CONCERNED SENIOR
No confidence in Medicare reform
Betty Stevens joined an HMO in the '90s, and saved money at first. She's now less satisfied.
Harry Tyson RETIRED EXECUTIVE
'On the good end,' but still worried
Bill Luerssen is "ridiculously healthy" and lucky to have solid benefits. Not all retirees are so lucky.
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