Traverse City Record-Eagle


April 28, 2013

Area family contends with crippling medical bills


Insurance didn't cover about $80,000 in bills, so Gokey negotiated with sympathetic doctors, drained his savings, and scrimped to pay the rest.

“You lived on damned near nothing,” said Schaub, standing by his bedside. “Saltine crackers and milk.”

“I kept the lights off, too,” Ken said. “I lived like a hobo in the house.”

Now Gokey has racked up $159,000 in medical bills. Medicare will pay nearly all of the $125,000 hospital bill and about 20 percent of everything else — lab services, doctor bills, and outpatient services. Gokey, who lives on a small retirement and Social Security, has no money to pay the balance of more than $7,000 or the incoming bills for his six-day hospital stay in March.

“It’s so ridiculous in price you can’t never pay the bill. A working man can’t," Gokey said.

Gokey privately confessed to Schaub that he is ready to die because he can't afford to live.

"This is his fate after working full-time to the age of 70 and raising six kids. It’s pathetic," Schaub said. "My biggest beef is that people have access to excellent medical care, amazing doctors. But they live in fear of going to the mailbox and finding another collection notice."

Ruth's sister, Jackie Gokey, works for a doctor's office and understands both sides.

“Oxygen places need to get paid. Pharmacies need to get paid. I see that. But how do you get help for a man who can no longer work?” she said.

Schaub said her father likely will die in her home with hospice care, which Medicare covers.The family plans to sell his Maple City home to pay his medical bills. Gokey said he no longer worries.

“We still live in a beautiful country and I’m still glad I wake up in the morning,” he said.




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