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: Hayward, CA
How long have you been uninsured? 16 months
What is the reason that you are uninsured?
I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 2.5 years ago and required to undergo 7 months of chemotherapy. During that time, I was too sick to work. I had a senior level position with a Fortune 500 company. They informed me that, due to needs of the business, they could not hold my job for me until I got well enough to return. Consequently, I lost my group insurance plan that I had for 24 years. I received Cobra coverage (which was $600/month). But, I had to have it, so I paid that premium for 2 months. Then, my payment was one day late. It was Memorial Day weekend of last year and I didn’t plan accordingly and get the payment to the post office in time. They dropped me.
And, they did so retroactively. So, one of the CT scans I had been given to monitor potential cancer reoccurrence was re-billed to me (that’s how I found out I was cancelled). I called and wrote to the Cobra administrator to ask that they reconsider and reinstate me. I was denied. Then, because of the downturn in the economy and my industry, I have been unable to find a new job. I have tried to find a private insurer but have been turned down due to my pre-existing condition (cancer). So, I find myself with no job, no income and no medical insurance.
How has not having health insurance impacted your life?
It is a great source of stress for me. I am in a situation now that, if I did have a cancer reoccurrence, I would be put in a position to take the rest of the money out of my savings. Also, I have not been to a doctor since. There are a few minor things that I’m concerned about with my health.
But, I don’t go to the doctor because I can’t afford it. So, I am not getting the preventative care that I should get and always have until now.
How do you obtain routine care?
What have you done/will you do in the case of an emergency?
I did have to go to the emergency hospital 3 weeks ago. I was there for 2 hours and received a bill for $3000. I have had to work out a payment plan with the hospital. Otherwise, I would not be able to pay it at all.
What do you want people to know about life without health insurance?
It’s scary. You feel helpless and just hope that your luck will hold out.
It’s not fair. I have worked hard all my life, paid my bills and took care of myself. And, now I feel pitiful and embarrassed to be in this situation.
What do you want the government to know about life without health insurance?
I feel estranged. I don’t feel like a valued citizen anymore. I am afraid for my health and my financial security. That is not the way I expected to feel at this point in my life after so many years of productivity and contribution.
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.”