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John Pierpont: $313
Age: 37
Occupation: Handyman
Hometown: Orange, Calif.

My wife, Jaime, and I both worked for the same company in the mortgage industry, earning six-figure salaries. We have both lost our jobs.

Since my first real job after high school, I have been used to paying nothing to $100 a month for employee insurance plans. As was my wife. But all of a sudden, we needed to get our own plan.

Via Anthem we found a plan that was quoted at $501 per month. After the review and underwriting policy, the rate jumped up to $607. Four months later, we got a notice that the rate was increasing to $781 per month. We decided to investigate Kaiser Coverage and found equivalent coverage for $313 per month.

As for dental, we have not given up on our normal check-ups, but we have to pay out of pocket. Our normal dentist is a good guy and gives us a reduced price since he doesn't have to deal with the administrative part of insurance claims.

Obviously, food and shelter take first priority, but protecting the family from illness and injury is a close second. Making other adjustments allows for us to maintain coverage: Vacations, eating out, shopping for non-essentials have all been eliminated until we can rebuild our savings reserve.

Health insurance takes up a significant percent of our income these days, but since we consider it an essential expense, we make it work. I continue to be surprised at what people consider an essential expense in the face of challenging times.

My thoughts on universal health care: In general, I always like to see the private sector being able to function and the government in the background. Universal health care sounds great at the highest possible level, but there is nothing to peel back and look at.

NEXT: Gardner Cook: $325

Last updated May 01 2009: 12:50 PM ET
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