MPW.66 / 2014 Family Care When Health Care Fails by Alyssa Schukar
Photographer
Alyssa Schukar Chicago, Illinois
Team Cliff & Vi

Story Summary

Twenty-six years ago, Vi Lane and her family were set. She and her high school sweetheart Rod owned three Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants and a video store. But a lump developed on Rod's neck and four years later Rod died from complications related to oats-cell carcinoma. Rod's treatment cost millions of dollars, and without health insurance, Vi sold the family's businesses to settle the hospital bill for $2.5 million.

Vi has always worked, but with her 70th birthday looming she had settled into a solitary life in a two-story house she rents near downtown Platte City.

Eight months ago, shortly after Vi's 22-year-old granddaughter Cyndi Perkins found out she was pregnant with her second child, she and her 18-month-old son Thomas Brown moved in with Vi.

Cyndi works for Y Club, an after school activities program south of Platte City, and she hopes to teach second grade once she gets her degree. She makes $9.25 an hour but is not allowed to work more than 28 hours each week so that her employer isn't required to enroll her in health insurance. Cyndi's hospital stay for the birth will be covered by the new Missouri Uninsured Women's Health Services program, but the only hospital that will take that insurance is a 35-mile drive from home.

Though health insurance woes continue to plague them, this unexpected family has brought a sense of cohesion and has filled Vi's home with love.