California man's health ordeal puts face on uninsured

Sacramento BeeNovember 29, 2009 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Tony Andrade struggles for the words to bear the news, heart pounding and hands clammy as he grips his cell phone. Mom, don't freak out or anything, he begins. It's cancer.

Sandy Cooper's voice quavers. I'll be right there, she tells her son.

Bladder cancer. Andrade clicks off the phone and stops to absorb it, alone amid the bustle of nurses, doctors, orderlies and patients at Kaiser Permanente's south Sacramento emergency room.

The last thing he needs is more medical bills to stuff into the shoe box under his bed. The past-due notices for prior emergency room visits now swell into the tens of thousands of dollars. The phone calls from the bill collectors keep coming.

Andrade never had much money. His bank account already is depleted. Nearly four years ago, he lost his home when he could not keep up with the payments.

In many ways, Andrade, 47, is the Everyman of President Barack Obama's push for overhauling the country's health care system: working, but for low wages, without health benefits – in the company of 37 million employed Americans who are uninsured.

Read the complete story at sacbee.com

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