America's Looming Health Care Disaster

"One is a high-deductible plan, or a limited-benefits plan," said Merrill Matthews, executive director of the Alexandria, Va.-based Council for Affordable Health Insurance. "In addition, there are what's known as 'bridge' or 'gap' policies. These are very easy to get, with usually only one page to fill out and they will cover you immediately, assuming you don't have AIDS or a life-threatening heart condition."

"To be very clear: these aren't comprehensive policies," he added. "But they can be a good option for someone with limited means who needs some coverage."

Nash said families should also plan to see health care spending encroach into other areas of the family budget.

"I would urge families to have an emergency health care cash fund available, and I would tell them to think very carefully about what they're spending for Christmas," he said. "I know retailers don't want to hear that, but 18 months from now, there are people who are going to regret very much that Christmas spending."

But for some, like the Rushings, frugal living proved to be no sanctuary.

"We don't live extravagantly," Terri Rushing said. "We have a three-bedroom, two-bath house. We don't drive fancy cars; we drive older cars."

Now, she and her husband have used the money in his 401(k) to keep up with their costs of living. David received his second to last unemployment check Thursday.

"As far as surviving, we're looking at the possibility of losing our home," Terri Rushing said. "It just feels like our lives have been turned upside down and put in a paper bag, and now we're waiting for someone to come by and shake us out."

Her advice for others who find themselves on the brink of a personal health care disaster is brief.

"Expect nothing. Prepare for everything. And pray," she said.

Scott Mayerowitz contributed to this report.

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