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. Mike in TX

    Government should not be running health care. This is the government that has bankrupt social security and Medicare, and the state of the VA hospitals is horrible.
    Do you really want them telling you what Dr. you can see, and when, and what meds you can take. Have you seen the problems that they have in Europe, France, Canada where they have to wait for months to be treated.
    The UK just told patients with stomach and breast cancer that they can't have medications for it because they cost too much. This is how you want your health care???? I sure don't!

    March 7, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    The Republican party of the rich dont care about working families and they certainly dont care about your healthcare. The insurance companies, the HMOs and the pharmaceutical companies, are their first priority

    March 7, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  3. C W

    When I was a kid, we had county hospitals, which were non-profit. Since managed healthcare came on the scene – touting they would reduce costs – healthcare has gone through the roof. It's a huge expense for small business, which is supposedly the backbone of our economy.

    Our healthcare system is long overdue for an overhaul and genuine reform. If that means the CEOs of health insurance companies have to somehow scrape by on less than their yearly multi-million dollar salaries (even as their companies post decreased profits), then so be it.

    And if you don't believe me about the salaries and how they've risen dramatically and undeservedly these last several years, check it out: They are all publically-traded companies and this information is readily available.

    March 7, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  4. mike, wa

    So i hope with this new universal health coverage everyone wants they are also willing to pay more in taxes for it. While many people want the health care they still don't want to pay anything for it. If we do go to UH then you will be taking less money home.

    March 7, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  5. KLS

    This is only one person's story but there are millions just like him. The insurance and drug companies have powerful lobbyists working for them in Washington. In the last 8-years health care costs have sky rocketed to the point where a lot of employers no longer can afford to insurance their employees. Or they push the increased cost down to their workers who can't afford it so the opt out of the insurance plan. My husband and I have a small business (three employees) and over the course of the last 7 years our insurance rates have gone up double digits each year. Something is really wrong with our health care system and it needs to be FIXED.

    March 7, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  6. Matthew

    I am amazed by comments from folks who declare that health care wshould be a fundamental right in this country. Using that logic, we need to follow Maslow's hierarchy of needs - so first everyone gets a place to live for free; next everyone gets fed; for free and after we house them all and feed them all, everyone can have free health care. The only thing left to do after that is to learn how to speak french

    March 7, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  7. disgusted

    If the politicians don't think that we deserve healthcare, then I am sure they have no problem getting rid of the plans that they have that are paid by us.

    March 7, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  8. facts are not actually factual

    Contrary to comments on this thread, we do not spend the majority of our money on wars and defense. We spend 75% of our government's funds on entitlements – social security, medicare, and welfare.

    March 7, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  9. Lisa C.

    I see no reason why there are people who would be against universal healthcare, other than those who profit from it. Unfortunately, in America, we have turned the necessity of healthcare into a luxury. It is look upon as a social standing; the have's and the have not's. This is just another way for the haughty individuals to look down their noses at others who can't afford a yacht and healthcare. Ridiculously so, those with high stakes in healthcare, deceptively fool the American people into believing that universal healthcare is socialism. Your best interest is not at there hearts rather at their pockets. Why else would it cost you $550 per month, sickly or not, for healthcare? If you don't ever get sick, will you get even a smidgen of your money back? Will there ever be an end to this payment? How much is tallied toward your overall healthcare contribution? You don't know, do you? The system is designed to be in your pockets forever. It's almost better to invest in a healthcare spending account, one that won't disappear after the year-ends. I feel the same way about bank mortgages and credit companies. Their very existence is the reason why prices are allowed to be driven into infinity. We borrow to pay the salesman and the lender? If the lender were not available, the salesman would lower the prices leaving no real need for credit. Same with healthcare; if insurance companies didn't exist the fees for services wouldn't be as high. I'm getting sick just thinking about how the powers that be have taken advantage of us. LOL! Blessedly I still have a job and insurance.

    March 7, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  10. HelloooOOOOO

    So, let ALL in Washington enjoying "thier" great health insurance at OUR expense, be the 1st to "GIVE UP" thiers, becuase its socialism !!! otherwise, shut up and allow ALL Americas citizens the same thing you enjoy !!!!

    March 7, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  11. Lisa C.

    I agree with Simmy @ 3:37PM. We need to do a major shift in our lifestyles in order to remain healthy. I'm afraid our current system is banking on the failure of our health.

    March 7, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  12. Nicola

    to Mike in Texas

    You do not live in Canada and you are propogating about our health care system. The goverment do not tell people what doctor they can see and what form of medication they will take for an illness. So
    before you go ahead and speak for this great country, go and educate
    yourself. Please consult your dictionary and find what the word
    socialism means and then speak after that

    March 7, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  13. nganenu

    Since John King took over the time devoted to Blizers time, he seems to go against the elected US president. mr. John King, health is a must for an healthy economy. Yu need healthy people to work. Seek people can not make a sound economy. You must know that. How can you provide for your family if you are sick or sickly. Mr. King, you are a danger to this presidency

    March 7, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  14. Julia

    What happened to Americans caring for Americans. Health care is a RIGHT not something to pay for. Millions are made off people dying. 9/11 workers can't get health insurance. Yeah that's right. You want to know how well a country cares about there people you will look at there health care. Sure there are problems with national health care but you won't lose your home and life savings to keep your health. America wake up and live up to what was set down by the framers of this nation. You have lost your way. Remember it was Freedom by the poeple for the people!

    March 7, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  15. Sick of it!

    Way to go, Simmy!!! The way people eat dictates a lot of their health! Eating out fast food costs more than a lot of healthier home prepared choices. We are a nation of FAT, SICK and unhealthy people due to diet and bad habits. Why don't we just do something to improve the situation while we are waiting for it to get better. Help yourself!

    March 7, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  16. SPB531

    I know this is a controversial statement and let me preface it by saying that to my mind, there is no better system in the world than capitalism. That having been said, the health and well being of the citizens of this or any country should not be a for profit enterprise. I have so much trouble wrapping my head around the idea that in our society the wealthy have access to better, more advanced care than those less fortunate. When put in those terms, we are basically saying that if you are born with less intelligence, less drive or to lesser families (ecomonically speaking), your life and health are worth less to society as a whole. There is something drastically wrong with this picture.

    March 7, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  17. once upon a horse

    About 10 years or so ago I had an HMO..really cheap healthcare through my employer and once I had to use it I found out why it was so cheap. There were only certain things they would pay for, certain doctors they would allow me to see and once I did have to go to the hospital they would only allow me to stay in for so long and literally put me out well before my doctor's wishes. The bill for 4 days was well over 25thousand dollars and this was back in 1996. Thank God it was an injury that happened on my job because worker's comp paid the WHOLE bill. I have since then switched to a different company that cost double even through my job, but it is well worth it. You get what you pay for with healthcare just like everything else. Yet some of these hospitals and doctors stick it to the insurance companies as well. Ever do a line item check on a hospital bill? I was charged $5 for an asprin and one of my meals was $25 I kid you not!

    March 7, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  18. BRANDI


    March 7, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  19. spring forward

    it seems the last administration, was more interested in other countries than they were in America, and our health care.

    March 7, 2009 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |

    You would think the repubs would want health care for children so the kids would be healthy at 18, otherwise, who would repubs have to use as fodder for the war grinder they so love and institute at the slightest whim.

    March 7, 2009 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  21. amt, CA

    Health care should not be a luxury or available only if you can pay for it. We must have universal health care for all Americans it is expected in any civilized society & especially being the most wealthiest on the planet. It is shameful that the repubs always try to block it, therefore being only interested in the wealthy who can afford to pay for it.

    March 7, 2009 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  22. Al

    I find it very sad that anyone should go without health insurance in the United States. I find it disgraceful. There was all this money to send to Iraq and to this place and that place, 30 billion to AIG, and to this one and that one, yet, people are walking around un-insured, meanwhile over in Great Britain, anyone can get healthcare for free. Whether or not you like Michael Moore(I like him), he made his point perfectly in his documentary about healthcare.

    March 7, 2009 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  23. A Proud Canadian

    Keep spinning all the republican and insurance companies yalking points...we are all getting quite a chuckle out of your total ignorance about how Canada's health care plan work!!

    The biggest difference I see between so many Americans and Canadians is that we believe in looking after our own!!

    March 7, 2009 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  24. Peter (CA)

    Health care is not run by doctors it is run by the CEOs of insurance and pharmaceutical companies. There have to be changes, especially when you see that almost 50 million people are not insured. And think about what it touches. Workers at American and foreign car companies now get paid about the same. What is the difference? Legacy costs, especially health insurance. Does that not signify a huge problem? In Germany and Japan, health care is taken care of by the government. Even if you don't want socialized medicine, you have to see we cannot continue on this same road where member premiums are used to pump up stock prices not to provide care.

    March 7, 2009 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  25. ken

    Our country will become rather 3rd world without affordable and preventive healthcare. I am 58, recently lost my job and cannot afford my premiums. I have to pay 200.00 a month. What do I mortgage, or my health insurance....a 5000.00 deductible. Do I gamble here? My children cannot find insurance to them is not even a thought. What are we coming to in this country? We are the best in the world...well, we used to be.

    March 7, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
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