Thursday, June 25, 2009

Healthcare Stories from America - Debt, foreclosure, bills, tragedy....

I survived cancer last year. I have been in remission for one year. My employer laid me off when I was diagnosed and I was off work for a year while I had chemo. I used my 401k and my credit cards to survive during that year while I fought for my life. I thought I would be able to refinance my house to cover the $7500 max out of pocket for my treatment. However, I find myself with over $30,000 in outstanding medical bills at this point and I still need expensive tests every 6 months to make sure the cancer is still gone and have to have my port flushed every 8 weeks - $200 a pop. I figure I will max my out of pocket every year until I reach the 5 year mark. Since my insurance company doesn't even pay what is covered, being deeply in debt is my new way of life. In fact, I figured out the other day that my medical expenses - with my insurance premium and my co-pay and "co-insurance" up to the max out of pocket - are 40% of my net pay every year....and will continue to be for the next 5 years. Add the bills the insurance rejects and makes excuses for and I'm bankrupt many times over. I've worked for the last 25 years and always had health insurance. Little did I know that when I needed it, I would be abandoned by the system. I am effectively bankrupt but alive. I refuse to let it make me sorry that I survived. I don't care what it takes.....affordable health care must be available to the working class of America.
Dear President Obama, I am thirty one years old and am in several thousand dollars debt because I was unable to get insurance for several years because of a "pre existing condition". In m early twenties I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. I was fortunate enough to have caught it early and had a minor surgery to have it removed. I did not have insurance at the time because my full time job did not offer it. I tried to get private insurance but because I have had a history of skin cancer, the only type of insurance I could buy was high risk/emergency medical coverage. This cost between $300.00 and $500.00 a month. Obviously, this was not something I could afford when making $12.00 an hour. Each I became ill and could not afford to go to the doctor, I had to go to the Emergency Room. I knew that the ER has to see patients' whether or not they could pay at the time of service. I also could never afford to pay the hospital bills once they arrived so the debt started to pile up. I naturally didn't have dental insurance so I have had six teeth pulled because I could not afford to have them repaired. I'm wearing partial dentures at age 31. Affording implants just isn't realistic. I also have had to wear torn contacts because I could not afford to have them replaced. I was hospitalized for two days in 2005 and when I received the bill I honestly just started to laugh because it was so absurd. $24,000.00 for two days. I didn't have a job and lived in a converted garage that was infested with mold. Was there really any way I was going to be able to afford that bill? I have been at my current job for a little over a year and now have benefits. The benefits are basically horrible and it's like not having them at all. I don't complain about it to the owners because they are just trying to keep the doors open in this economy and do the best they can. We also do not have vision or dental. I am still not at a place where I can start paying off these bills. I would love to be debt free but at this time it just isn't realistic. I'd like to point out that I do not have any credit cards. My debt is 90% from medical problems. I don't see how I will ever afford to pay off these debts and fix my credit. I am well aware that I will probably never be able to qualify for a home loan because of my low credit score. This is all because I had skin cancer once, in my early twenties.
I am a Family Physician who works in a community health center and I fully support this much needed change in the U.S. heath care system. I see approximately 60% uninsured patients and about 30% Medicare and Medicaid. The uninsured are causing so much stress on hospitals, clinics, and health care providers because there is just too much demand and too little supply. We do everything we can for our patients but we just don't have the resources we need to get them good care. We are getting more and more overwhelmed with new patients who have lost their job and lost their insurance. I have patients who have to wait 6-10 months to see certain specialists. What do you think happens when someone who has major health issues has to wait for months for appropriate care? They end up in the ER. And that happens over and over and guess who pays for all those uninsured people in the ER or the hospital? We all do.
I am a pediatrician caring for many children whose families struggle with the current health care system. Yesterday I saw a child whose mom said he wasn't sick, she just wanted to get him checked because her insurance will run out at the end of the month. She is a single parent working hard for an hourly wage, and her job does not provide health benefits. All of her friends are telling her to quit work so she can go on welfare and get free medicaid. This mother takes pride in her work and her ability to provide for her family. She does not want to go on welfare but feels she may have no other choice if she wants health insurance for herself and her children. No one should be in the position of choosing to give up work in order to obtain medicaid. We need to help working parents keep their jobs and help small businesses who employ them keep their workers by providing a better alternative. We need a health care system that does more than extend the system of insurance -- we need an option of medicare for all!

Many More stories like this at Health Care Stories for America |

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