As part of the Huffington Post's efforts to bear witness to the effects of the current economic environment on ordinary Americans, we're rounding up some of the most compelling stories reported by local news organizations around the country.
The recession has made Americans' health care expenses even more difficult to pay than usual.
Few know this better than Valerie Read of Lynwood, Washington, who works as an insurance biller at a pathology lab in Seattle where they run tissue and urine samples. All of the unpaid bills cross her desk before they wind up in the hands of collection agencies. Many of the bills are for thousands of dollars.
Valerie notices a trend from the insurance companies -- they're contesting more and more claims and denying coverage for medical expenses more frequently. She finds it hard to continue doing her job, and she wants health care reform that will make her job easier and health care more affordable.
Valerie says she "has no love for the insurance companies," but singles out United Healthcare as particularly poor. "Here is a company who just gave their CEO a bonus in the billions and they have a call center in another country" she says. "You have to repeat yourself several times, and hope they can transfer you to someone who can speak and understand English. I want to scream on a daily basis, 'Please, can I speak to someone who isn't just following a script and wants to help me get this claim paid for this patient?'"
Everyone--including those working in the health care industry--is ready for change, Valerie says, but no one sees the light at the end of the tunnel. "Why should the insurance companies change when they make more money denying claims than paying them?"
Valerie hopes that Congress can finally come up with a solution, because more and more people are dying because they lack health insurance.
In fact, Valerie is so fed up with the current health care system, she might "drive down to Washington D.C. and pick up a sign, and start picketing outside the White House."
She says a lot of her friends might do the same.
This story is part of Bearing Witness 2.0. HuffPost Eyes & Ears is asking for stories of the tragic human cost of the corruption and greed that have brought us this financial crisis, and for examples of recession heroes.