Colorado's uninsured top 300,000

If Jeannie Carranza had--n't found the Colorado Indigent Care Program, she doesn't know how she would have paid her medical bills.

Carranza underwent surgery in April to remove a benign tumor that was pressing against her brain stem. Doctors estimated the procedure could cost $70,000 to $100,000.

Like 336,000 employed Coloradans, Carranza's husband did not have health insurance.

Not knowing where to turn, Carranza contacted state Representative Al White's office. The representative put Carranza in touch with the Indigent Care Program. Despite her massive medical bills, Carranza only owed a $760 co-pay.

"Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to pay for my surgery," Carranza said.

According to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a significant number of working Americans in every state are uninsured, like Carranza and her family. In Colorado, at least one out of 10 working adults does not have health insurance.

The most recent figures available for Moffat County were compiled by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in 2001. The department found that 15.3 percent of county residents lacked health insurance. That figure was only slightly below the state average of 15.8 percent.

Chris Miller of Craig had health insurance until he left his job at Tri-State Equipment to open his own business, Miller Family Appliance.

"As a business owner just starting up, it's something that concerns me. Because of the cost, I'm contemplating what I'm going to do," Miller said.

Three months after opening, Miller said he's doing well, but not well enough to afford health insurance coverage for his family. He's looked at a number of health insurance plans, but he said he can't afford the $650 monthly payments.

At Miller's former place of employment, Tri-State Equip--ment, the owners struggle to provide their employees with affordable health care coverage. Twelve years after opening the business, Susan Walsh said she and her husband have seen health insurance costs triple in price.

Almost every year, the Walshes switch health care providers because they find they usually can get a better deal by changing.

But regardless of what company they go to, it's hard to find affordable deductibles. A deductible used to be $500, Walsh said. Now most plans the business gets have deductibles of $1,500 per person.

Next week, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is sponsoring Cover the Uninsured Week, an effort to focus attention on the need to secure reliable, affordable health coverage for all Americans.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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