KCUR News
2:48 pm
Wed June 17, 2009

Family Copes With Medical Bills And Eviction

Kansas City, MO – As medical costs continue to rise, many families face mounting debt as a result of hospital stays, prescriptions drug costs and lost time at work.

(Link to watch video for this story.)

A study in the American Journal of Medicine found hospital and medical bills contributed to three out of five bankruptcies in 2007 - a fifty percent jump from just six years earlier.

Things haven't gotten to that point yet for Vickie Day and her family.

Her family has health insurance, but they still face tens of thousands of dollars in hospital bills after one child went to intensive care several times with diabetes. The Days have been evicted from their Kansas City, Kansas home and are now faced with the dual challenges of trying to find another place to live while digging out from under a pile of medical bills.

"I never thought I'd be back living with my mom at 50 years old. She was really good about it," Vickie says. "She was really nice."

Vickie says her husband, their two kids, a niece and nephew, all were evicted from their Kansas City, Kansas home at the end of May.

Now, the family is scattered.

Vickie and the four children are staying with her mother and her husband is staying with his brother. The family stores its belongings in the back of their minivan.

"We'll take in about three outfits each and then we'll switch them out," Day says while driving the family minivan.

The eviction is just the latest stress.

Vickie's nephew, Trenton, and his younger sister have lived at the Day's home since their mother passed away from lung cancer. To make matters worse, Trenton was diagnosed with diabetes by the family doctor about a year after moving into his aunt's home.

Over that time Trenton has become an expert at taking his blood sugar and injecting insulin.

"This is the insulin thing right here," Trenton says, handling his insulin kit. "Here's the needle, twist it on and then you can give it in the stomach, you can give it in the arm: dial the number up - shoot it," he says.

An active kid, Trenton says he loves playing outside with friends, but he hasn't had the chance to do much of that lately. Instead, he's been in and out of the hospital with complications from diabetes.

"We'd done pretty good actually until this year," Vickie says. "In about February we started having problems with really high blood sugar."

Trenton's been in intensive care twice over the past three months, frequently visiting doctors at Children's Mercy for check ups.

Like many families facing an unexpected medical crisis, the bills have started piling up.

"I pay as I go, what (the hospital) asks for they get," Vickie says.

But Vickie says she's lucky to have a job as a cashier at Hen House. A job she knows isn't high paying but has a few benefits that include health insurance and a flexible boss.

"I feel lucky to have an employer that cares about your family and their health and will work with you through this," Vickie says. "I feel very lucky."

Day was able to get 10 weeks off through the Family and Medical Leave Act. During that time she didn't earn a paycheck, but an income tax refund helped pay the bills, Vickie says.

Now though, she says she's facing a bigger financial challenge while she looks for another place for her family to live: $50 thousand in medical bills after insurance.

"Before we were pretty well set, you know just a step ahead of your bills basically," Vickie says. "Now we're two steps behind."

"That's what happens when you get in a situation like that," she says.