Reform Health Care Now: 87 million uninsured, and growing

A few months ago, one of my patients approached me with a dilemma. She had been laid off from her job, but had let her employer-sponsored health insurance lapse without signing up for COBRA, which allows terminated employees to pay to continue their health insurance coverage with their previous employer for up to 18 months. She didn't qualify for government-sponsored insurance because she had a small family savings account. And she was unable to get an individual policy because at that moment she had what insurers classify a "pre-existing condition": She was pregnant.

When my patient asked me how much it would cost to deliver her baby in the hospital, I explained that a normal delivery would cost about $15,000, but if she ended up having a C-section she could easily wind up with a $30,000 bill. And her tab could top $100,000 if she had a premature baby requiring care in the NICU. Having a baby could not only wipe out her savings, it could land her in bankruptcy.