July 27, 2009

Every time someone (okay, my oldest childhood friend who, despite years of my positive influence, only watches Fox News with her libertarian hubby) tells me how her insurance is fine and she doesn't want Obama's "socialist" healthcare reform, I respond, "You don't have health insurance. You have the illusion of health insurance, and for your sake, I hope you never find out." Oy.

(CBS) President Obama will be promoting health care reform this week in Virginia and North Carolina, and plans to keep the pressure on Congress during next month's recess. One argument for health care reform is that 47 million Americans are uninsured.

But not everyone knows that another 25 million are underinsured as CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller reports.

John Stewardson is up at dawn, working for the local 602 union in Washington, D.C. But by 11:30 a.m., he's home fixing lunch for his ailing wife Linda, a cancer survivor.

"I'm just going to have to take medicine for the rest of my life," she said.

Diagnosed with a brain tumor last summer, she's in remission. Now it's her family's financial health at stake. In March, their healthcare insurance capped-out at $150,000 of treatment, minimum coverage by industry standards.

The cost of treating cancer and its side effects demolished their life savings.

"It's like she fell out a cancer tree and hit every branch on the way down," John Stewardson said.

They owe more than $100,000 in medical bills.

Dr. Deepa Subramaniam is counseling more and more patients like Linda - forced to decide which treatments are worth the cost.

"I am trying to balance cost and effectiveness in her case," Subramaniam said. "You worry that somehow by choosing a treatment that is less expensive, that we are compromising the quality of the care."

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., is leading the effort to push the affordable health choices act through the Senate. He supports a government insurance plan that eliminates lifetime and annual caps on all healthcare plans.

"The underinsured are a critical group," Dodd told Miller. "In some cases 53 percent don't know they're underinsured. So they either have a huge co-pay if the problem happens or the deductibles being so high they might as well not have insurance."

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