Fri, May 04, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Selikoff faces crisis as insurance dries up

RUNNING DRYDespite an initial outburst of help from friends and celebrities, the bed-ridden former TV star and his family are struggling to cover medical expenses

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mark Selikoff undergoes a medical examination at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taoyuan County two months ago in this file photo.

PHOTOS: COURTESY OF SELKOFF FAMILY

Celebrity friends of former TV entertainer Mark Selikoff have abandoned the bedridden US artist after promising to help him and his family following a motorcycle crash in Taoyuan County last September that left him severely brain-damaged, Selikoff's family said yesterday.

Fluent in Mandarin, Selikoff, 37, was regularly featured in variety shows such as Everyone Talks Nonsense (全民大悶鍋) and Here Come Kang and Hsi (康熙來了). His entertainment career was cut short after losing control of his motorcycle and careening into a median strip.

Selikoff was comatose in a Taoyuan hospital for two months, and, though now conscious, remains in his hospital bed, his sister Rachael Selikoff told the Taipei Times by telephone yesterday.

"We don't know how much he understands," she said. "He can grab things and put them into a bucket."

Mentally impaired and nonverbal, Selikoff is struggling to recover while his Aboriginal wife, Huang Ying-hui (黃英惠), and their two young children fall on hard times trying to foot his medical expenses, Rachael said.

An initial outpouring of support from Selikoff's local celebrity pals, including financial pledges, has dried up even as the Taiwanese government threatens to cancel Selikoff's medical insurance policy, she added.

"There seems to be this impression out there that we're getting a ton of help from celebrities, but we're not -- we never did," she said.

Shortly after Selikoff's accident, local entertainer Jacky Wu (吳宗憲) pledged to help out with his medical expenses, while another TV entertainer, Chen Wei-min (陳為民), was reported to have rushed to the hospital to see Selikoff.

That concern has vanished, Rachael said, as Selikoff's national health insurance policy nears its expiration date in October.

Though he has resided in Taiwan for 16 years and his wife and children are Taiwanese, Selikoff isn't eligible to receive local medical insurance beyond October, Rachael said.

This is because Selikoff never applied for permanent residency and cannot obtain "handicapped status" as a severely brain-damaged foreigner.

"Mark would have to submit a certificate of health [to the government] to become eligible [for handicapped status] and he can't submit that now obviously," she said, adding that the status would provide Selikoff with a monthly stipend for his care.

"We're going to be up shit creek in October," Rachael said.

While his policy covers some expenses, Selikoff's wife has been eating through their savings to further provide care and raise their children.

The family held a fundraiser for Selikoff at a Taoyuan venue last week, but only raised NT$60,000 (US$1,800).

Donations to Selikoff can be wired to account 060500125678 at Union Bank's Jhongli branch (中壢分行). The account is in the name of his four-year-old son Shih Wei-che (石維哲).

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