A Tech Entrepreneur Struggles to Survive Healthcare Crisis

Bruce Kuhlmann, facing deadly cancer, can't afford surgery

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Bruce Kuhlmann of Santa Rosa called it the perfect storm: The laid-off tech worker and father of three went from making six figures a year ago to battling stage-four cancer without health insurance.

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.

"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 said he must get surgery right away before his cancer spreads. But with his 401(k) 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 has worked all his life to care for his family and contribute to the economy, most recently with his high-tech optics company, Hunter-Skyler. 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's trying to drum up freelance work to generate income. 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, Kuhlmann teared up.

"I have a lot to live for," he said.

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