Sharon Mills, a disabled nurse, long depended on other people’s kindness to manage her diabetes. She scrounged free samples from doctors’ offices, signed up for drug company discounts and asked for money from her parents and friends. Her church often helped, but last month used its charitable funds to help repair other members’ furnaces.
“I got to the point when I decided I just didn’t want to be here anymore,” she said.
So when a blue slip of paper arrived in the mail this month with a new Medicaid number on it — part of the expanded coverage offered under the Affordable Care Act — Ms. Mills said she felt as if she could breathe again for the first time in years. “The heavy thing that was pressing on me is gone,” she said.
As health care coverage under the new law sputters to life, it is already having a profound effect on the lives of poor Americans. Waitresses, fast food workers, security guards and cleaners described feeling intense relief that they are now protected from the punishing medical bills that have punched holes in their family budgets. They spoke in interviews of reclaiming the dignity they had lost over years of being turned away from doctors’ offices because they did not have insurance.
My daughter called me today from Pittsburgh where she lives. She was in the drugstore filling a prescription and they told her she wasn’t on our health insurance policy. Well, she is, so I called the insurance company and I got the auto-line because they’re closed for the holiday. The recorded voice got it straightened out after I punched in 500 numbers and letters.
She wasn’t panicked or even really very concerned. She has the 40 dollars for the meds, she’s healthy, generally, and if she isn’t on my policy she can get on her employer’s plan. I assume she then left the drugstore with her prescription and went back to work, because I didn’t hear back.
Here’s a different story. Two Americas, indeed:
And there is a high price for being uninsured, she said. One patient, a coal truck driver in his 30s with diabetes came in for treatment whenever he was insured, which was not often. Last summer he had a stroke after a stretch when he had no coverage; he now walks with a cane and cannot drive. Another patient, a woman with diabetes, is now legally blind because she could not find an endocrinologist who would treat her, or a lab that would run tests, without insurance, Ms. Justice said.
75,000 people in West Virginia can “breathe again”