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Never be afraid to ask for help

All the figures show the number of parents who don't insure their children is rising. The reasons are all financial. No responsible parent wants to gamble with the health of their children. It's not enough to refer to poverty as if only a small number are penalized and then move on. The way poverty is defined artificially limits the way in which the government reports the number who have fallen into the category. The reality is that rising medical costs are now making it difficult for even middle class families to pay for health insurance. Gordon and Mary are typical. They have two children. Gordon is self-employed as an electrical contractor. Work's been pretty good with the boom in housing. Mary works as a legal secretary. They were comfortable until the housing bubble burst and contracting work dried up. He's been doing odd jobs but their income has dropped to the point when there's barely enough for the mortgage and food on the table.

The health insurance was the first thing we cut. That and selling the second car to pay off the credit cards. Gordon was finding it hard to talk about it, so Mary took up the running.

We were embarrassed. Didn't want to tell anyone we were having financial problems. She looked round their home with pride. We worked hard for all this... We tried to keep up appearances.

When Doug, that's our youngest got sick, we didn't know what to do for the best. Mary wanted to go down to the Emergency Room at the first sign of trouble but, like I said, it wasn't an emergency. Not at first.

In the end, I asked at work. It was a real benefit to be working for an attorney who cared. I became an instant expert on the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. With two uninsured kids under 19, we qualified under the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). We were able to get both kids covered and Doug got the treatment he needed before things got too serious for him.

At least Mary had someone to ask. No matter what your situation, you should never let pride get in the way of your responsibility to your children. There are plenty of people and agencies around to ask. Remember, if you don't ask for help, you never get any.


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