From Rock Bottom: One Crisis from Disaster

Recently my family was saddened by the death of a close friend and member of our community. For some time he had struggled with diabetes, heart problems, and the complications associated with.

I believe that in this there is an important story to tell because of our current state of affairs with healthcare, and how many of us simply cannot afford what we need to stay healthy. It’s not a matter of many of us being cheap; it’s a matter of the fact that the money simply isn’t there to either pay for the care, or the insurance that would allow us to receive the care.

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What follows will be will the story of Mr. Acme and his companion Ms. Pink**, two individuals who did tried to do the best with the cards they were handed.

For the past twenty years they had been gainfully employed, happy, and with few real issues to worry about. But then like many people in recent years, they were laid off. The reasoning? The company that they had worked for for the past two decades decided that they would move out of country, to Canada no less. During this process, Mr. Acme and Ms. Pink were asked to train their replacements, and not to expect a severance. Having spoken with Mr. Acme, he said that he was given the impression that, “They were too damn old… ” and ““Somebody younger, cheaper, more..”

While this may be frustrating, there’s no real law to protect workers in certain age brackets from this type of discrimination. Mr. Acme and Ms. Pink were now jobless and uncertain as to what would happen next. They had had good health insurance with their previous job, but soon without insurance their health problems began to pile up; making it impossible to stay gainfully employed. At this time they weren’t able to pay for the COBRA (Continuation of Health Coverage) on their insurance or pay into the Affordable Care system.

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Number of Uninsured Circa 2012

Eventually they cashed out stocks, bonds, and savings in an attempt to keep debt collectors and bills at bay. When that didn’t work, valuables were sold piecemeal in an effort to raise cash in any way they could. This unfortunately has become common, and it’s gotten to the point where everyday on places like FaceBook, or Reddit I see people trying to offload what they feel are valuable in effort to make a little cash, so they can go a little longer. I admit to doing this myself as a student even, because let’s face it books, parking passes, and school supplies aren’t cheap.

During all of this Ms. Pink suffered a series of strokes, leading her to spending the large majority of her time with a walker or wheelchair; and eventually Mr. Acme had no choice but to become her full time caregiver, responsible for meals, medication, and anything else she might need. Because of the lack of insurance, Mr. Acme had not been able to receive medications to keep his heart issues and diabetes under control. Even if his health had permitted him to hold a job, there would have been no one else to care for Ms. Pink.

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Medicaid Expansions circa 2016

They were still in the same boat from when the layoff had started, except this one now had leaks and was needing a bucket for bailing. But there wasn’t a bucket, either with insurance, medicare/medicaid, or the ability for Mr. Acme to hold a part time job.

Their situation wasn’t a good one, and it had yet to get better.

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** The names in this series have been changed. Because this is a public blog and website, I have done this to protect the privacy of their families and their community.

Published by Elayne Otstot (public health girl)

Graduate of the UT Arlington B.S. in Public Health inaugural cohort and member of Loyola Law School's Coelho Center Fellowship. I address public health and health policy issues in an easy to understand format on my blog Public Health Girl.

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