The Times West Virginian

In Today's TWV

October 8, 2006

‘I had no way to buy medicine’

Many without health insurance are low-income people who work



“For the uninsured, if you look at who they are, essentially two-thirds of them are low-income, and eight out of 10 uninsured people come from working families,” said Jennifer Tolbert, a principal policy analyst for the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, D.C.

“Essentially, they are low-income people who are working. The issue is they don’t have employee-sponsored insurance offered to them, either because the employer doesn’t offer it or maybe the employer offers it but because they are part-time or new to the job, they are not eligible.”

Workman fell into that category, considered a part-time employee because his seasonal work kept him from putting in hours year-round.

The medication he had been prescribed back then for his diabetes, Glucotrol, cost about $80 a month, Workman said, which he could not afford without insurance.

“I felt fine,” he said. “I worked through this period and never missed a day’s work.”

During this time, 10 years ago, his wife, Virginia Mae, also was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which quickly spread to her cervix, and she died within six months. She was treated at several hospitals, running up a debt of $100,000, “if not more,” Workman said.

For the most part, hospitals quit seeking payment, he added.

“I wrote them all letters, explaining the situation,” he said. “Only a few of them threatened to send me to collection agencies. I have no way of paying them off.

“Of course, I could never go buy anything to get credit.”

Now, at the age of 44, instead of having 20 or more good working years ahead of him, Workman draws disability.

Jones, who helped Workman get disability payments, believes the costs of not having affordable, accessible health insurance are numerous.

“If people are not healthy enough to work, they are not healthy enough to pay taxes,” Jones said. “It makes no sense that we don’t have a more preventative approach.”

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