Underinsured seek spot in health care discussion

Laura Burwell was weeding her backyard vineyard last summer when she was bit by a rattlesnake. She rushed to a Chico hospital for antivenin and morphine, which eased the pain during an overnight stay.

Then came the unexpected sting of a $73,000 hospital bill — and shock upon learning her health insurance would cover a mere $3,000.

"It was one of the longest, most stressful periods in my life," said Burwell, a self-employed wine shop owner whose financial security was shattered by the snake bite.

"I'm probably a typical insurance purchaser," said Burwell, who had to scramble to find a solution for the steep bill. "I believed what I was told by the person selling it to me."

While much of the American health care discussion has focused on providing coverage to the country's 46 million uninsured, there is growing concern about millions more who are underinsured, or whose policies require them to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket before coverage kicks in.

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