The Newest Face of the Health Crisis - NBC Bay Area

The Newest Face of the Health Crisis



    The Newest Face of the Health Crisis

    Bruce Kuhlmann calls it the perfect storm. The laid off tech worker and 58-year-old father of three went from making six figures a year ago, to battling stage 4 cancer without health insurance.   Kuhlmann was laid off in December 2008 from DiCon Fiberoptics Inc.

    "I'm looking at possible foreclosure, bankruptcy, but the key thing is trying to get healthy right now so I can at least deal with these issues," said Kuhlmann.

    Kuhlmann must get surgery right away before his cancer,  mucinous adenocarinoma which started in his appendix, spreads any further. But with his 401K fund depleted, he's scrambling to find a way to pay for the life-saving operation.

    "Right now I'm worried about getting cured and fixed and every time I call somebody, 'What's your insurance?' That's what they ask," he said.

    Kuhlmann's in good company. The state's soaring unemployment rate has left many once-covered workers uninsured. A new study says 1 in 4 Californians lacks health insurance. That's the highest number in more than a decade according to UCLA's Center for Health Policy Research.

    Kuhlmann has worked all his life to care for his family and contribute to the economy. He can't believe how quickly his fortune has changed.  And he's astonished, that in his time of need, there's nowhere to turn.

    "Here I'm born in Northern California working my tail off and for me not to be taken care of a little bit," said Kuhlmann in disbelief.

    Kuhlmann says his plight underscores the need for healthcare reform. He's watching closely as President Obama and congressional Democrats scramble this week to finalize an agreement.

    Though sick, Kuhlmann is trying to drum up freelance work to generate income.  Right now he is doing some work for a laser company called Alfalight Inc. out of Madison, Wisconsin. While it doesn't come close to covering his medical bills, he's trying to stay positive.

    As he looks at his mantle filled with photographs of his children, Kuhlman tears up. "I have a lot to live for," he says.