More Faces of the Uninsured

September 24th, 2009, by

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.


Name: Karen Gadbois

Age: 54

City of residence: New Orleans

What is the reason that you are uninsured?

The cost of health insurance would be half my salary.


Name: Mary Sias

Age: 49

City of residence: Houston, Texas

What is the reason that you are uninsured?

I am uninsured because I lost my job and could not afford the COBRA or any other insurance due to preexisting conditions. I am a 18.5 year survivor of Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I have also survived cancer, been blind twice, not counting the walking pneumonia with bronchitis. It is tough, not only to find a job, but especially one that I can get affordable insurance. I need help. I need medical tests that are costly, but necessary. I pray that something will be done about the insurance situation in America.


Name: Nicole Maron

Age: 37

City of residence: San Francisco, CA

What is the reason that you are uninsured?

I’m a freelance web designer, so I have no access to group insurance. I have mild asthma, a previous knee surgery, and am overweight due to inactivity during the … year I had to wait to be able to afford the knee surgery. Now, all of those count as pre-existing conditions, and because I am at risk for other health problems due to my weight, I am uninsurable.

There is one state plan I can join, but it has such a low lifetime payout limit – $75,000, that if anything happens to me I’ll go bankrupt … So I pay what I have to out-of-pocket. I avoid the doctor as much as possible, because they can never tell me how much their tests will cost, and I can’t afford to get surprise bills for thousands of dollars. I sprained an ankle and spent $1000 for the ER visit without even getting an x-ray.


Name: Ely Nunez

Age: 29

City: New York City

What is the reason that you are uninsured?

Layoff in November.

A million stories will be told along with mine. Perhaps my voice will become mute by the complaints, the tragedies, the circumstances, the stories, and the cruel reality of the whole. I sat for a few minutes before deciding to participate in this initiative. And not because I don’t believe in the cause, but because I’m exhausted by the excuses of my nation and my generation.

Millions feel repulsed when they hear that millions of Americans do not have health insurance but they go back to their life, because in the end it doesn’t affect them. I was once that gal – it didn’t affect me. I did the right things – I swear I did. I did everything I was supposed to do to avoid my situation today. I was not supposed to fall into the percentage of the uninsured but I did. Here I am, looking at America from a perception of lack and not of opportunity.

Yes, I did the right things! I graduated college, got a decent job, saved money for a rainy day, invested 10% and later 7% in my 401K, filed my taxes, and worked extra hard to secure my job. I worked in HR for five years within the book publishing industry. I wasn’t surprise when my fabulous boss visited my office on a Friday afternoon and told me “Liz, I’m sorry. We’re letting you go” as he handed me a severance package and tried to get me to talk about my state of mind. I saw the jobs being placed on hold and the decrease of HR projects. I wasn’t as much surprised as I was concerned. I had just paid an estimate of $1000 in the last few months with Health Insurance. I didn’t have to look at the severance package to know that I could not afford COBRA. I had once been responsible for putting together the severance packages … I knew employees couldn’t afford it. I knew I couldn’t either. Not even if they were giving it to me for $250 a month because unemployment was not covering my full rent, how could it possibly cover my health insurance? How?

For a healthy 29-year-old, not having health insurance is fine. For me it was fine too. I would find a job and get health insurance again – piece of cake, I told myself. Almost a year later, I have no job and no health insurance. I went from having to go to the doctor every month to not going at all. I went from complaining to praying. I went from knowing to understanding. I’m not your typical 29. I have a common condition that affects many women …

You ask, how did I become uninsured and why am I still uninsured? I thought I lived in a fair country. You ask, how am I feeling today? I don’t know. I haven’t been to a doctor in almost a year and I am terrified to go because I fear the results!


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.”

Last modified: May 4, 2011 at 9:57 pm