Residents' insurance: From awesome to scary

October 19, 2009

Retiree Glen Tarner was working part time, making deliveries for a paint company in April when he suffered a seizure or a stroke, crashed into a tree and was injured badly.

"His brain was bleeding and swelling. It was like a month before he started to come out of it," said his wife, Mary, 66. "There was a time there when they didn't think he'd live.

"We thought the company's insurance would pay. But they said it was a medical condition that existed before the accident, so they wouldn't pay."

Fortunately, the Hagerstown couple's own health insurance did.

It's a mix of the Medicare that Glen Tarner, now 71, got when he turned 65, and the supplemental policy they got from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.


"I saw a bill come through (from a hospital) the other day for 70-some thousand dollars. And Medicare paid all but a thousand dollars. And our supplemental picked up the rest," Mary said.

"It was something," said Glen, a Jamison Door Co. retiree who is recovering well.

So, what do they think of President Obama's proposed health care reform?

"Right now, what we have is fine for us," Mary said. "If you don't have any insurance at all, those people would probably say, 'Well, great!' about a new national plan."

'We have awesome insurance'

"We have awesome insurance," said Judy Hahn, 61, of Smithsburg.

"If we need it, it is there," Hahn said after she and her husband, Mike, 62, left Hagerstown's Robinwood Medical Center, where he was being treated for a stomach ulcer.

Mike, a federal police officer at Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, Pa., has BlueCross BlueShield insurance. For that, he pays roughly $400 a month, he said.

For this day's treatment at Robinwood, he paid a $20 co-pay. Before the plan changed in January, the co-pay was $10.

"And, to me, I'm not complaining" about that, said Judy, who works as a laundress at Reeders Nursing Home in Boonsboro, but is on her husband's insurance plan.

Nonetheless, both Hahns agree, the president's health care proposal for a national plan is a good idea -- even though it might change the insurance coverage the couple has now.

"There's so many people that don't have insurance," Mike said. "It's important that everyone have good health care."

Unfortunately, he said, "a lot of misinformation" is stirring public opposition to the plan.

But Judy said the need for change is clear.

"I could count 10 people I know that don't have insurance. And, if they do, they can't afford to go to the doctor because they can't afford the co-pay."

She said a woman she knows told her "she couldn't afford to pay the $200 co-pay it would cost her to go to the emergency room or the co-pay to go to the doctor. It was like $75."

Severance pays for insurance

It has been more than a year now since Rayloc ceased production at its Hancock plant and Janet Martinez, like hundreds of others, lost her job.

But Martinez, 52, who is taking classes to train for other job opportunities, said she has been fortunate in at least one respect -- she has been able to stay on health insurance.

After getting Rayloc's severance package, "I set it aside so I would be able to afford health care coverage," she said.

The insurance cost her $396.74 per month -- about a third of the $1,300 per month she was receiving in unemployment benefits.

And she received another boost. Because Rayloc's closing was related to work being lost to foreign competition or being moved overseas, Martinez qualified for a federal Health Coverage Tax Credit that pays 65 percent of her insurance premium.

So what Martinez pays has dropped to $138.86 per month.

"It's extremely helpful for me to be able to afford the health coverage," she said.

'There's no way'

Construction worker Harold D. Hall Jr. has gone without health insurance -- and, consequently, some medical care -- since he was laid off last January.

The extended insurance the 54-year-old Hagerstown man could have gotten through the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) plan is too expensive, he said.

"I get the maximum unemployment (benefit) and it would eat up to half of what I get, just to pay for health insurance, the COBRA. And, there's no way in this world I can do that," Hall said.

"It's scary right now, very scary," he said.

"I take two prescriptions for high blood pressure and the other for thyroid. And, I'm supposed to have blood work every three to four months, and I just can't afford that," he said.

He said he's discovered he can buy each of the prescription drugs at a local discount store for $4 and occasionally, he's able to "swing it" to go to the doctor's office.

But Hall said he has been able to secure coverage for his two teenage children through Maryland's HealthyChoice, which provides health care to most Medicaid recipients.

"My income's low enough, the state's not charging me anything for health insurance for the two children," he said.

As for Obama's call for national health care reform, Hall has no opinion yet.

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