These are the faces of the uninsured. Look at their photos. Read their stories, told in their own words. And if you are one of the 46 million Americans without health insurance, share your story with us.
City of residence: Anaheim, CA
How long have you been uninsured? Since January 1, 2009
What is the reason that you are uninsured?
As of January 1st 2009, our company stopped paying 60% of our health insurance and we became responsible for 100% of our premiums. My cost went from $150.00 per month to $400.00 and I could no longer afford it. It just wasn’t in my budget to pay the extra $250.00 and pay $500.00 per month to put my 4-year-old daughter, Maria, through Pre-Kindergarten. As a single mother I can only do so much, and her education became the priority. I can’t get insurance outside of work because I have a pre-existing condition and nobody will approve me. I tried many times.
How has not having health insurance impacted your life?
It makes me nervous every time we get sick or Maria hurts herself. I always wonder if I am a day away from an emergency that would leave me drowning in medical bills. I never used to worry about things like that, but now I worry all of the time.
How do you obtain routine care?
We are lucky enough to have a free clinic not too far from here that offers free care for children under 5 with no questions asked, so she is taken care of for now. I have only been able to get OB/GYN care from Planned Parenthood with a small donation, but if I get sick I will have to pay out-of-pocket for a doctor’s visit and prescriptions …
What have you done/will you do in the case of an emergency?
I don’t know. I am really worried about that. If it is my daughter I will take her to the hospital right away … Hopefully I can set up an affordable payment plan for the bill.
When it comes to me, I may think twice … before I go to the hospital, which isn’t the best thing to do. But I can’t handle the extra bill.
What do you want people to know about life without health insurance?
I want them to know that even if you are educated and have two college degrees from UC Berkeley, like myself, this can still happen to you. I make more than $20.00 per hour and still can’t afford it because the cost is just too high.
I also want people to know that it is a scary and uncomfortable life. Every day I feel like I am walking on eggshells hoping and praying neither of us gets hurt because it would devastate us.
We can even get turned away if we have no insurance. That is an awful feeling. That is my biggest fear – getting thrown out of a hospital when they find out I have no coverage, instead of getting treatment.
What do you want the government to know about life without health insurance?
I want them to know that it should be a crime to allow people, especially 4-year-old little girls, to exist in this country without health insurance. This nation can donate money to other countries in need, but they won’t use our tax dollars to make sure that every hard-working, tax-paying citizen is insured?
It should be a right not a privilege and I hope that this is what happens by the end of the year, thanks to a president who actually cares about us. I want them to think that a right to health coverage is the same as a right to a free public school education for my child and realize that you cannot get a good education without good health.
(Photo credit: Lana Gornostaeva)
For more on healthcare reform, tune in to PBS on Thursday, September 24th at 9pm for a 90-minute report. Tavis Smiley, NOW on PBS and Nightly Business Report are collaborating to produce the in-depth special called “PBS Special Report on Healthcare Reform.”