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Format: 04/23/2014
Format: 04/23/2014


WTAE-TV: Financial help for people without health insurance

Monday, May 18th, 2009

PITTSBURGH -- Many people in Pennsylvania -- more than 1 million -- do not have health insurance, and the number is expected to rise with layoffs this year.

If you're one of those people, WTAE Channel 4 Action News anchor Michelle Wright has a list of six things that you can do for health coverage.

1) If you have a true medical emergency, go straight to the hospital emergency room and work out a payment plan later.

2) If you think you're going to lose your job, get a checkup right away and fill all of your medications.

3) If you lose your job, you have 60 days to file for COBRA insurance. The new federal stimulus package will dramatically cut your COBRA costs by paying 65 percent of your premium. The average cost for a family is $1,078 but that is slashed to $377 with the federal help.

4) There are several free clinics and sliding scale clinics in Pittsburgh and the western Pennsylvania region. A list is online at BeWellPGH.org.

5) Need help paying for prescriptions? Help is available online at pparx.org.

6) Tell your doctor you're having financial trouble and try negotiating payments. Many doctors will work out something that will work for you.

Go to https://www.humanservices.state.pa.us/compass/CMHOM.aspx to find out if you qualify financially for help with health insurance.

Cancer survivor Jim Semonik told Wright that he didn't have health insurance -- and at age 31, he thought it was too expensive and he figured he didn't have much to worry about.

When Semonik started having problems, he put off going to the doctor because he wasn't covered. Finally, the pain was too much to bear, so he bought insurance and went to find out what was wrong.

"I had a colonoscopy done and they found two malignant tumors -- one in the rectal tract, the other one a little bit further up in the colon," Semonik said.

Without the insurance, Semonik said he wouldn't have been able to get the care he needed to save his life. He's spreading the word that people shouldn't procrastinate when it comes to health insurance.

"I've seen some of the medicines I've taken for chemo. Some of the pills are ridiculous when it comes to what you would have to pay without insurance -- thousands of dollars," he said.

Dr. David Medich, of Allegheny General Hospital, said Semonik's voice is needed.

"He has an ability to connect with human beings from every walk of life and get the message out," Medich said. "If you have symptoms, seek medical treatment, and if you don't, then seek the appropriate screening that one should have."

To visit WTAE-TV's web site, click here.


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