Dave Hutchins, the facilities manager at popular local nonprofit Home Resource, finds himself and his family stuck in a predicament that puts the shortcomings of the current health care system into stark perspective.
Hutchins' 6-year-old son Elijah, a leukemia survivor with Down syndrome, is covered by Montana Medicaid, which has paid more than $1 million in medical bills. Those costs include Elijah's six-month stay in a Spokane, Wash., hospital in 2004 and biannual oncologist visits.
"I've reached a point in my employment where if I make any more money—if I was working full-time, which I'm not right now—he would lose his coverage," explains Hutchins.
The predicament means that Hutchins, 33, also a pre-engineering student at the University of Montana, only works 25 hours a week at Home Resource, which works to the local nonprofit's detriment.
"Dave is one of our very best employees," says Home Resource co-director Matt Hisel. "We have a ton of great employees, but I would rank him right at the top. But we've actually had to cut back his hours."
Hisel says it's a perfect example of why the health care system must be overhauled.
"Right now he's trapped in a situation where he's adding to the taxpayer burden," explains Hisel, "and not contributing to it as much as he potentially could. So all of this is why it's very clear to me that addressing health care reform is an economic stimulus."
Hisel explains that trying to provide health insurance for his employees has proven incredibly difficult over the years, partly because the nonprofit's been lured into plans with relatively attractive rates only to see the rates rise as much as 39 percent the next year.
"Something needs to change that allows Dave to increase his wages and work to his full capacity," says Hisel, "both for his own fulfillment and for Home Resource's higher productivity."