March 7th, 2009
02:39 PM ET
14 years ago

King: In tough times, health care considered a luxury

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Doug Pegram, of North Carolina, is just one of many unemployed Americans struggling to pay his medical bills."]

On CNN's "State of the Union," host and chief national correspondent John King goes outside the Beltway to report on the issues affecting communities across the country. This week, King traveled to North Carolina to look at the financial crisis' impact on health care.

WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (CNN) - For Doug Pegram, it is on the one hand simple math: His medical bills cost roughly $300 a month and a health insurance policy would cost $550.

Programming Note: Watch "State of the Union" with John King, Sunday at 9 a.m. ET

"Two or three hundred dollars goes a long way," Pegram said. Especially when you are living on unemployment benefits.

Simple math, and a huge gamble: Pegram has a rare disorder, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, that in some patients can be life-threatening.

"If anything happens, that's another story," Pegram told us. "But you have to do what you have to do sometimes, and you just hope for the best. And do it."

Life on the edge started in November, when Pegram lost his job at Hanesbrands Inc., the clothing manufacturer where he had worked for three years. Ironically, Pegram's job as a senior analyst included writing reports for Hanes management on sales and economic trends.

"Every couple months, it [layoffs] went through the company and a few people here and there and it got worse and worse," he said. "I knew it was in the future somewhere."

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Filed under: State of the Union
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. John

    What you are seeing in the country these days is the "republican health care plan". That is, you can have all the health care that you can afford to pay for. Don't have any money, well the republican answer is "tough".

    The republican party is for the rich and well connected and all others are just lazy over payed workers.

    March 7, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  2. Tony in Maine

    Access to health care should not be determined by the thickness of one's wallet. Ours is the only industrialized country in the world without universal access to health care. The shame is ours for permitting the health insurance industry to buy the Republican Party and block reform.

    March 7, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  3. Pat

    Been there, done it. I am the insured for my family.
    I never quit a job or got fired. I always had excellent reviews and never did anything that could cause an employer wanting to get rid of me.
    I even communted 150 miles/day to my job, without a single sick day.
    I have a good education and received a lot of recognition.

    Yet I went through 4 layoffs over the last 4 years.
    With the last layoff I had to leave my family of 6 without health insurance for 1 1/2 months
    ...I never thought that I would have to make a choice like that.

    I'm currently waiting for layoff no.5.

    March 7, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  4. Larry


    March 7, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |

    When I was laid off my COBRA extension was 380/month. I had to use IRA funds to pay for it. It is very helpful that the stimulus package will now pick up 65% of that cost for up to 9 months, making it much more affordable. I was unemployed fo 8 months, that would have been very helpful, since I could have paid the lower amount out of the unemployment funds.

    My dental health was indeed a luxury and one I could not afford.

    March 7, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  6. Perusing-through


    . . . Health insurance is basically tied to your job and if you lose that job, then you lose your: (1.) Health, (2.) Medical, (3.) Dental, (4.) Vision, and (5.) Drug coverage. Don't get me wrong, I truly appreciate the quality of health service in the U.S. However, the fundamental infrastructure of U.S. health coverage is severely flawed now that corporations are more volatile and employees are more transient than the 1960's and 1970's.

    March 7, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Another example why we in this country need to go to government universal health care. Health care should be a right not a for profit business. We need to do away with for profit health insurance.

    March 7, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  8. ran

    Another example why we in this country need to go to government universal health care. Health care should be a right not a for profit business. We need to do away with for profit health insurance.

    March 7, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  9. Bev

    Yeh if the people can't afford health care let's just let them die and then throw them on the dung heap out back. Sound familiar. Isn't this the same argument as used against Clinton health care? Basic health care should be a right. If you are not healthy you can not work, or learn in school, or contribute to the max to the economy and the country or live your life to the max.

    March 7, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  10. Greg Hodges

    I just wish these right-wing lunatics would have to live in poverty for just 6 months; to see what it is REALLY like to be at the mercy of corporate masters who run the company into the ground and then put their workers out in the street to cover up for their failures. I suspect at the end of those 6 months they would be screaming louder than anyone for Barack Obama to come riding to the rescue.

    March 7, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  11. Simmy

    I wish above all things, that you (Dems and Repubs) prosper, and be in good health, even as your souls prosper.

    Eat more fruits and vegetables.
    It's kinda hard to go cold turkey on all fast foods, so why not limit them to once a week (if you can afford it). If you can't afford it, tell your children the truth, and find creative ways to make their meals look more inviting. Sometimes the presentation of the meal makes it more appealing. Little ones love it when the meal looks special.
    Reduce or eliminate ..
    Sodas, or limit them to once or twice a month.
    Water is always good. I had to force myself to drink it at first. Now I'm a guzzler. Hooooray!
    Fruit/vegetable drinks are ok. I dilute mine with water because some of them taste slightly concentrated.
    Make your own healthy drinks. One I love is a mixture of strawberries, bananas, yogurt and milk. I pretend that it's a milkshake.
    I eat red meat maybe once a month, it that. We prefer chicken, fish, salmon, even sardines.........There are so many little things we can do to improve the quality of our lives. Hope these help. Happy eating.

    March 7, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  12. G.O.P.: When you've got NOTHING, you've got nothing to lose

    The rushpublicans think health care is a privilege.
    The rest of US think it's a right.

    March 7, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  13. John Anthony

    It is absolutely insane that universal national health care is still nonexistent in this country! This insistence of ours of depriving millions of citizens of something so fundamentally basic just so piggish corporations and greedy insurance companies can profit, and their boards of directors can receive unjustifiably huge salaries is indefensible. Health care for ALL, and JAIL for profiteering corporate execs!

    March 7, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  14. lupercal

    Tony, it's not that simplistic. Access is not the only question. You also have to consider costs (which is what's in question here), and quality. And i believe if we can significantly reduce costs even by making some sacrifices within the existing system so that it's easier to upgrade the current system, we'll be able to expand access without sacrificing quality. But Costs-Slashing is gonna lead the way. I understand the moral impediment. But i don't want a bankrupt gov't, hyperinflation because we have to keep printing money to keep up with costs. I don't wanna have universal healthcare for 10 years and then have to completely throw people off the rolls because it's unsustainable. The health insurance industry isn't the only villain here. As for as i know, now, they're more willing to root for universal coverage, because it expands their market. Doctors actually might oppose that because it overloads the system.
    My point here is not to keep on rambling, but to urge us to think outside the box. It's that need a bit more than just saying expand access. Cuz if you reduce costs by 60% (wildest dreams), access will flow from that.

    March 7, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  15. Lori

    I don't know how anyone who breathes can support the Republican party that would restrict Americans access to universal healthcare. My friends in Canada enjoy the fact that if they get sick all they have to do is just go to the doctors.

    Republicans don't want Americans to have healthcare, help with their housing, money to stimulate their communities, want the stock market to fail and Americans to suffer in hopes of getting re-elected (good luck!), etc. No wonder why they will stay a party of NO solutions, just name calling. I know the President will keep up the good work!

    March 7, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  16. Lilly Rose

    Once again the Republicans stick it to the American people. Now they will start with that "socialism" boogie man to scare people. Well my fellow Americans, there are worse things that this so-called socialism. The Repubs are using it to keep us in check. How about illness with no health care and no doctors, homelessness, hungry and/or sick kids. People with jobs, homes and full stomaches can afford to walk in lock step with them, the rest of us can't.

    March 7, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  17. change

    Medical insurance and lack of insurance is a problems, for to long we been ripped off while insurance companies have ripped us off for nothing, thousands of stories could come forward with Medical insurance complaints. Like the republican party they can come up with more reasons to say NO. Not covered. and one breath later raise it or cancel it.

    I love the guy saying free market.. while at the bottom it says paid 5 million dollars out of his own pocket for this commercial. umm no.. 5 million dollars you ripped off from the American people are paying for it and you want us to keep paying for it.

    You can knock or call it socialism if you like.. you fear what you don't understand

    My spouse is Canadian, we pay 77.00 a month for family coverage.. there is NO co pay when you go to the doctor. We pick our doctors. Never waited from than 10 minutes to get into the Doctor. Never seen ONE medical bill arrive at our home in Canada in 5 years. In America I pay 500 or more for family insurance and it covers only what they want to cover

    When I first experienced this.. I thought it was a joke when I pulled out my wallet and check book to pay for our child's appointment. How much do I owe? Nothing.. I thought hidden camera were there.

    People who spew you can't pick your doctors are lying. They don't want this because they won't be able to rip you off more. They are scared to death of this and wanting you to fear it.

    You can call it socialism if you like.. I call it a plan that works for the people. I've seen it..

    March 7, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  18. facts are facts

    America is only first in one world wide ranking and that is the U.S. being the richest country in the world. This clearly shows just how bad the country has been run as they have to have been spending too much money on unnecessary things like war and munitions.

    I know Americans don't like the idea of cutting back on wars and munitions but all other modern societies manage to do it okay and all provide free health care benefits to everyone of their citizens.

    March 7, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  19. Franky

    You know, if there's one thing we can agree on is that we'll take anything short term...I mean, anything. Heck, even a W against a weak team...or in other words, science, freakin science, LOL!!

    There's just too much crazy stuff, you ain't gonna satisfy both sides. One minute you can be cool, or the other minute is lack of attention, or lack of understanding. Either way, the way I see it, we have a complex system. But I do believe is true...Health Care is vital for our economy in the long run and for so many factors. Little that people know but medicine, is evolving and sooner or later, science will take over. We are barely at the peak of what we want to accomplish. It ain't easy and it is gonna be a challenge.

    Hey John, what do you think we should do?? You know what I think?? Casino baby!! LOL!! I seen that everybody is expanding, hopefully our state got stock over here...about time! LOL!!

    Later John...

    March 7, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  20. jonnierae

    Hanes now employs workers in Viet Nam. For twenty dollars a week. Why don't you do a story about how many companies, and which ones, owned by which corporate conglomerate, shipped this guy's and millions of others' jobs overseas to make more profit for themselves. The taxpayers are paying for it in the form of unemployment benefits, emergency room visits, medicaid, food stamps and crime.

    March 7, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  21. Huh?

    " Access to health care should not be determined by the thickness of one's wallet. Ours is the only industrialized country in the world without universal access to health care. The shame is ours for permitting the health insurance industry to buy the Republican Party and block reform." - Beautifuly put!

    March 7, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  22. Frank the Tank

    In Maine, the less you make the better the health care. Tony in Maine must have a big wallet or has neglected to take a hard look at the welfare state of Maine and it's pover-rich citizens...

    March 7, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  23. change

    CNN should do a story on keeping them honest on the health insurance companies.. See the truth, talk to the American people. Go to the hospitals and see how well this free market insurance really works.

    Don't talk to the Doctors. Talk to the ones trying to file or turning in medical bills to get letters saying not covered. Add up the millions of medical bills the American people can't pay because of this free market insurance rip off..

    Talk to the people who have lost everything.. due to nothing but medical bills. And 50% of them would have had "insurance"

    March 7, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  24. Cathy

    Excellent story by Karen Tumulty on health insurance in this weeks' Time Mag.

    March 7, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  25. Jeff

    I can imagine Republican zealots foaming at the mouth and screaming: "A national health care plan only serves to encourage weakness and illness."

    March 7, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
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