Health Insurance Raleigh Costs Force Choices

Wednesday 21st January 2009

Willey, 45, has colon, liver and lung cancer. Health insurance paid for by his former employer, a Raleigh, N.C., electric contractor, covered his chemotherapy until he lost his job Oct. 23. Since then, he has been paying $231 per month to temporarily continue his health insurance benefits under provisions of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA.

But he isn't sure how much longer he can afford the COBRA payments, his co-pay for the prescription drugs and the mortgage payments for his house.

Willey is among an increasing number of people who find themselves in a difficult situation: They have to decide whether to spend their limited resources on food, housing and transportation or on medical care. Many consumers have begun to skip checkups, postpone surgeries and leave prescriptions for expensive medicines unfilled.

At the same time, enrollment in Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor, has begun to rise again after years of declines.

Waiting to sort out unemployment and disability applications at a North Carolina Employment Security Commission office recently, Willey couldn't figure out how to adjust his medication to save money.

"If I try to do anything, it's all downhill," he said.

As consumers look to lower expenses, cost can trump disease prevention, and lives are put on the line, especially among the uninsured, the underinsured and the increasing number of unemployed about to lose health insurance.