N.C. woman has two jobs but still can't afford health care

The (Raleigh) News & ObserverOctober 2, 2009 

Editor's note: This fall, The Raleigh News & Observer is talking to people about the nation's health care system: what works, what doesn't and what should be done to fix it.

RALEIGH — There's a Moon Pie giveaway at noon today in front of Sen. Kay Hagan's office in Raleigh. Behind the treat is a less-than-sweet story about a woman in need and a health care system she says has failed her.

"We are not asking for the moon," says Kim Yaman, who organized the snack attack to press Hagan and other lawmakers in Washington to quit bickering and craft a new national health care policy. "We just want affordable, accessible health care."

Yaman's interest is both personal and universal. A 49-year-old grandmother from Cary, Yaman fell ill three years ago with a cascade of mysterious ailments that have only recently been diagnosed.

Although she holds down two jobs and has health insurance through her job at the Wake County Public Schools, Yaman spends between $8,000 and $12,000 a year out of pocket for doctor visits, tests and prescriptions.

Everything she earns in her second job, handling marketing and promotions at the Galaxy Theater in Cary, pays medical bills. Still, she has fallen $3,000 behind, and has put off getting care from a specialist who discovered a tumor on her pituitary gland at the base of her brain. The unhealthy pituitary, likely a rare disorder called Cushing's disease, has derailed her immune system and probably triggered heart and lung problems.

In the depths of her despair, she and her friends got to thinking: Maybe they could hold a bake sale and raise some money for Yaman to get the care she needs.

But that would help only Yaman. Instead, they decided to give away Moon Pies at a strategic location to press the larger issue of health-care reform.

"This is not how health care should be handled in the United States," Yaman says. "I've paid my bills. I've paid my way. And still, I've become a charity case."

Yaman was a model of healthy living. She ate right. She was active.

A marathon walker, she routinely knocked out six or eight hours of walking.

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