How it felt when I didn’t have health insurance

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Two years ago, I found myself without a job and without health insurance. I had aged out of my parents’ insurance plan and was working 40 hours-per-week at an unpaid internship for my graduate program.

Insurance coverage had not been something I ever thought about before I lost it.

As an avid mountain biker, daydreams about freak accidents cluttered my thoughts. I was afraid my favorite outdoor activities would end up in an injury I couldn’t afford to pay for.

I was sick once during those uninsured months. It was probably strep throat turned into a sinus infection but I couldn’t afford to see a doctor so I let my body “heal” itself. Early one Saturday morning, I woke up with immense pain in my ear. The fluid from the infection drained into my ear overnight and I ended up in the emergency room.

What could’ve been easily treated only became worse and I was prescribed several expensive medications that would have been unnecessary if treated on time.

I get health insurance through my employer now and I’ve never been so grateful for it. However, I see people every single day who don’t have that option.

For the past year, I’ve worked as a health insurance navigator for Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, providing one on one enrollment assistance. I have met with lots of people who are self-employed and people who work multiple part time jobs who are getting access to healthcare for the first time in years.

I’ll never forget a man I helped enroll last fall. He’s a part-time food service worker at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

The man was born with one kidney and the kidney he does have is damaged and only working at 10% capacity so he must undergo dialysis every day. Without insurance, he would never be able to afford the treatment that is keeping him alive. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, his preexisting condition will prevent him from getting covered.

He has a two-year-old daughter and a three-month-old baby that would be without a father if he doesn’t have access to care.

With all the threats of repeal, we have seen a decrease recently in the number of people coming in to sign up for coverage.

I’m worried that people will miss their opportunity to enroll. This may be their last chance.

Tuesday, 1/31 is the deadline to enroll for 2017 coverage and I’m talking to everyone I can. If you know someone who is uninsured, please join me in spreading the word. Tell your friends to act now and go to healthcare.gov to enroll or work with a navigator like me.

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