In Indianapolis, Elizabeth Anthony treated her son for a month with over-the-counter medicine for what she thought was a persistent cold; by the time she took him to a doctor, he had full-blown bronchitis.Neither woman sought help right away because they don't have health insurance.Like many of Indiana's estimated 800,000 uninsured, the women are trapped in health care limbo, earning too much to qualify for Medicaid -- state and federal subsidized care for the poor -- but too little to afford insurance on their own.As a result, they feel they must choose between paying household bills and seeking even the most routine medical care.The consequences can be severe, physicians say. Diabetes and hypertension in men and women go untreated and spiral out of control. Babies are born underweight or even die because mothers don't get adequate prenatal care. Many women go years without pap smears or mammograms."I'm just waiting on something big to happen, then I'm going to be stuck with those big medical bills you hear about," said Higginbotham, 38, a single mother who takes home about $350 a week as a trucking company dispatcher. "All it takes is one thing."Anthony, 51, said she can't afford the more than $360 a month it would cost to buy insurance through her employer for herself and her two teenage sons: "I'd have to give up groceries. And I have to pay my other bills, which are all for necessities; I have no credit cards, no cable TV."Alarmed by the rapidly growing ranks of the uninsured -- the total shot up by more than 200,000 from 2000 to 2004 -- state officials have begun meeting with insurers, health-care providers and others to sort out how Indiana can extend health coverage to everyone.Assuming lawmakers can agree on a plan, Democrats and Republicans are eager to introduce legislation in January to move the effort forward.Signs of a growing crisis have been evident for years, but advocates say only now is there enough political support to do something about it.Advocates say the problem not only threatens the health of hundreds of thousands of residents, but also could hurt the state's economy.That's because when the uninsured finally seek care, it's often in hospital emergency rooms, where their conditions are more difficult and expensive to treat.Hoosiers who do have insurance help pick up the tab for those who don't through higher premiums. Nearly $1,000 of the annual cost to insure a Hoosier family of four goes toward paying for the uninsured, state officials said.High health-care costs also discourage employers from expanding their payrolls and could cause companies to think twice about locating in Indiana."I think it's gotten people's attention, because health-care costs for all are increasing at unsustainable rates," said Matthew Gutwein, president and chief executive officer of Marion County Health and Hospital Corp., which owns Wishard Memorial Hospital. The hospital treats more uninsured than any other care provider in Indiana."Businesses are finding themselves noncompetitive, employee health costs are going up and small business are finding they're not able to offer any insurance," he said. "And many are realizing that the uninsured are both a byproduct of the increased costs and a driver of those costs."

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