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In sickness or in health insurance

What sort of world do we live in where a mature, pretty and leggy blond woman has to create a website to find a husband? A world where healthcare is a growing problem for millions. Terri Carlson, a 45-year-old divorced mother, took to the Internet to form Willmarryforhealthinsurance.com to find a husband that could give her health insurance, putting love on the back burner for now.

During a time when Tila Tequila is looking for “A Shot at Love” and Flavor Flav seeks a “Flavor of Love,” Terri Carlson is actually facing a life-or-death situation.

Carlson is looking for a man she terms a “health care husband” because she cannot afford health insurance for herself. She was previously covered under her former husband’s employer for 24 years, but that all changed when they divorced two years ago. Carlson is now faced with a choice: backbreaking co-pays or food and shelter.

The issue that complicates Carlson’s case is that she has a pre-existing condition, something most companies stray away from or charge more in their premiums for. Her condition is called C4 complement deficiency, an illness similar to lupus. Because of a genetic defect, her body cannot identify bacteria and viruses that she comes in contact with. Her body’s cells end up attacking themselves.

She has been able to survive for the last few years due to COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) health insurance, a plan that covers people in the event of divorce or job loss, situations in which people forcibly lose their insurance. The former housewife currently relies on Cal-COBRA, the state division, as she has already used up the funds available to her through the federal COBRA program.

This form of insurance, however, runs out for Carlson on May 1, 2011. Faced with the possibility of having to pay thousands of dollars in co-payments, or eating all of the costs of her “numerous doctors appointments and dozens of medications” her condition requires, she decided to forgo the romantic side of marriage and seek a husband for his insurance plan. As Carlson states on her website, “I am looking for ‘the one’ with the lowest co-pays.”

The saddest part about her situation is that, despite her current insurance plan, she still devotes 90 percent of her income to medication and appointments. Carlson had to get a job to cover these expenses, but her employer cannot offer her health care. Carlson’s employer specializes in hiring those with disabilities, but because of this, an employer-based program would cost thousands because of the disorders it would have to cover to keep all employees healthy. So she works long hours from home (to avoid contact with viruses), just to get by.

Carlson stresses that hers is not a special case. A link on her homepage shows that she has received hundreds of e-mails from other Americans telling of their health care nightmares. She says she is “just like every other middle American that’s suffering from a pre-existing condition and caught in the middle.”

She also notes that this is not a political issue to her, but that “it’s about humanity.” Carlson does not seek Democratic or Republican support and does not want to get involved with the political machine. She simply wants to fight a fair fight against her illness.

In April of 2009, while Carlson was in a hospital and on the verge of death, she wrote letters to President Obama and other public officials, all of which went unanswered. The heinous fact, that she herself acknowledges, is that she could go out and commit a crime, wind up in jail and receive free health care, on top of three free meals and free access to a gym. She, instead, just wants a companion that is willing to share her load.

“The one” has yet to be found, despite multiple YouTube videos (under the username decoro4) and numerous pieces on her by MSNBC, CBS News and the New York Daily News, just to name a few. Terri Carlson is still on a quest to seek her “Mr. Right,” one that she does eventually want to find love with. She just needs to make sure she doesn’t end up on the streets, or worse.

This is not such a crazy idea. Terri Carlson is simply a mother with a potentially lethal condition that she has no control over. Desperate times call for desperate measures. She is simply trying to use technology to her advantage. She has featured a photo slideshow, including very attractive photos of herself, so it is entirely possible that a well-established man could be interested.

With a sky-blue background, birds and flowers placed around a picture of Carlson’s face, the main page of Willmarryforhealthinsurance.com seems almost misleading. To capitalize on the seriousness of her situation, Carlson features a message at the bottom.

“I know my site looks like a memorial and it will be unless I get health insurance, that’s the point!”

Kate MacDonald can be reached at kaitlynm@student.umass.edu.

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