Voices of the Uninsured

While news about the health care debate has died down a bit, the health care crisis in our country has not abated.
The Nation has a series up now, with voices from the uninsured.
An excerpt from one of the stories:

In College and Out of Insurance
I haven’t had health insurance since I was 18. I’m 23 now. My health started to take a turn for the worse around two to three years ago. I currently have many conditions–TMJ, tendonitis, spinal problems, poor eyesight, poor dental health, etc., and I almost never see doctors or dentists because they’re so hard to afford on a student budget.
I once had insurance for three months but it was cancelled after I had trouble paying the premiums on time. Now I can’t get insurance from anyone due to pre-existing conditions, and I’ve applied multiple times to every carrier on eHealthInsurance. There are no options for me in the US, except to pay out-of-pocket, which is wildly expensive. I can’t even move to another country because I’m still in college.
J. Travis Rolko, 23

Check out the rest at The Nation.

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  1. Heather Corinna
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    The last time I had insurance or any kind of healthcare coverage was in 1986. I’m turning 40 this year, and have been (over)employed most of my life, including in healthcare itself, and I’m still without, with no light on the horizon.
    In some cities I have lived in, I’ve had some quasi-decent options for care when I needed it. Here in Seattle, when I have gotten sick I have usually had to go to the ER to get care I really should be able to get by just walking into a GP’s office. I had to pay two grand a couple of years ago to get an ear and throat infection treated and diagnosed since the ER was my only option.
    I’m always very glad when those of us who go without get seen and heard.

  2. Comrade Kevin
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Reform legislation MUST be passed. I have had to use low-income insurance recently, which is so underfunded and convoluted that many people simply will not have the time, patience, or persistence to jump through the hoops.

  3. analog
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I understand this man’s situation I have had similar problems myself for the last few months as my husband and I have struggled with job loss and the accompanying loss of benefits. Our national health care system is disgraceful, people who can’t pay die, that is fact.
    But when I saw that this guy was from Ohio, I had to speak up. There are (somewhat crappy) solutions at the state level. Ohio has guaranteed issue, meaning that health insurance companies who want to do business here are required to issue insurance to a certain number of people per year NO QUESTIONS ASKED. So if this man goes through the state department of insurance, he should be able to find a number of companies who will be REQUIRED to accept him regardless of pre-existing conditions. These plans are pretty basic, but it is something.
    Applying on your own for health insurance (through a site like eHealthInsurance, or directly to a given company) is pointless if you have any pre-exisiting conditions, no matter how minor.
    I am not trying to say that this makes our health care system okay. But as I read through a number of these stories, it seemed like a lot of these people just weren’t aware of all the options that are available to them. Of course, these options are difficult to find and you have to be pretty determined to make use of them. And it is probably asking too much for someone with a chronic, or even fatal, medical condition to have the considerable time and patience it takes to get the care they need.

  4. analog
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I swear I am not trying to be rude, but can I ask why you don’t use a GP? What makes you feel that you need to go to an ER, rather than working with a GP? Do you feel that there is some advantage to not paying cash to a general practitioner rather than to the ER?

  5. purpleimages4
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    I feel you lady’s both. Every year i get some sort of sickness because of where I work and everything flows through there like Mad. I don’t know about your states or how this exactly works but i know that where I am if you are still in school they will give you insurance due to finical aid. So for the first time ever i have insurance again. Also another thing i have discovered is a walk in clinic it runs off the hospital but it costs half the price. At least. There called Urgent Care Centers here.
    I hope this helps you both.

  6. purpleimages4
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Alot of GP wont allow you to go to them unless you have insurance without paying them up front.

  7. Taisa Marie
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    I cannot personally speak for Heather, but many doctors won’t accept patients without insurance and the ones that do often are not accepting new patients because they have too many to begin with.
    Urgent Care facilities are often a lower-cost option to the ER but in my experience, especially when the urgent-care is not part of the local hospital, many times people end up being sent to the ER anyway by the urgent-care staff because their symptoms seem to be more than they can handle.
    Even so, urgent-care often requires payment up front (where I live depending on which one you go to it ranges from $85-$135) and if you don’t have the money the ER is the only place you will get treatment.
    It is unfortunate, but the ER is over-used because there often is no other choice for those who are low-income and uninsured.

  8. Taisa Marie
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    I’m in the same boat as this writer. I have the luck that my university has doctors the students can see for free but it won’t help me in an emergency. I know with my pre-existing conditions that it is near impossible for me to get insurance on the open market and even if I could, I certainly couldn’t afford it.
    It is awful, but one of the bigger issues is that lack of access to affordable health care perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Case in point, I tried to buy a house this past summer which including taxes and insurance, my total mortgage payment would have been 40% less than what I pay as a renter. Unfortunately what derailed me was a ER bill for 7k from 2005 when I had kidney stones. The hospital has never tried to collect and it was written off, but it is on my credit none-the-less. I am sure there are countless others denied the ability to own their own home, car, etc because of instances such as mine.

  9. Heather Corinna
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    That’s not rude.
    Here in Seattle, GPs often won’t see you if you don’t have insurance or public health coverage, even if you make clear you’ll pay in cash.
    Walk-in clinics here are few and far between, and often are overburdened with all of our homeless population. So, when you can get to one of those, getting care is still often difficult.

  10. Heather Corinna
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    Additionally, I should add that even if one COULD see a GP instead of going to the ER, if you’re having to go more than once, the cost itself could be prohibitive.
    For example, this summer I had very serious health problems. The only place I could go, and could afford to go, was the teaching school for alternative healthcare here in Seattle.
    Now, that place can be a godsend, and discounts it’s services 50% for uninsured low-income folks like myself. But, I had to go in for treatments once a week, sometimes more. As it was, all of my treatment for months cost an outrageous sum of money. On top of that, I was never able to get an actual diagnosis and tests I needed but they couldn’t provide due to the cost without healthcare at the one place a three hour bus ride away I could have gotten those (the only one even remotely close who would have let me pay the 1G plus in cash it’d cost), and while the worst of what I had going got better, chances are good that it will come back again, and I’ll still be left unable to get the kind of diagnostics and treatment I actually need.
    It’s tough sometimes to make clear to others who have had coverage what it’s like living without it. I think a lot of the problems we’re hitting with reform often have to do with a lack of understanding on the part of policymakers and the general populace of what it’s really like. Taisa’s post a bit below here is an excellent case-in-point (and I’ve been in that similar spot, too, part of why, at almost 40, I still rent and always have).

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