For a few months, I did not have health insurance. It is the second time in my life that I hadn’t had health insurance. At the beginning of 2008, I left the newsroom that had brought me such an adrenaline rush. I began working for a small business that didn’t provide any benefits. For my entire career, I have worked for companies, all of which offered health coverage. But when January 21, 2008, rolled around, I became uninsured.
I thought about the decision to take this position a lot for all of the usual reasons including how it could help my future but also because I wasn’t sure what it would be like to not have any benefits, let alone health insurance. I knew that I rarely got sick and have never broken a bone. But that could change at any minute.
After a few months, I began working for an organization that did provide all benefits including health insurance. I breathed easier knowing that if I needed to see a doctor or get a prescription filled, I could. But that’s not the case for everyone.
On August 6 2010, my current employer, the South Carolina Hospital Association and AccessHealth SC along with a number of providers held SC Mission 2010, a two-day free medical clinic in Greenville, SC at the Carolina First Center. About 1,200 people attended the clinic, which provided free dental, medical and vision services.
Judi, the first person in line arrived around 9 p.m. and sat in a chair under an awning at the Carolina First Center along with her friend that would keep her company through the evening. She told me before I left the evening before the clinic that she is a diabetic on a fixed income who hadn’t seen a dentist or a physician in more than a decade. Her choices are to seek medical care or to pay for essentials like electricity and a roof over head. So, seeing a physician is not a choice for her. You never know what it is like to go without health insurance, until one day…you do not have it.
Judi’s story is not unique. Over and over again, people in the line that snaked in front and throughout the Carolina First Center shared similar stories. They are without basic health insurance, access to care.
So, where do the uninsured or underinsured receive care and services? Do they wind up at emergency departments or not seek care at all? Surprisingly enough, many do not seek care because of the reality of a large hospital bill.
Imagine not having health insurance, getting ill, breaking a bone, and then not have any idea what you are going to do to take care of yourself. What would you do?