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Through our Health Care for All WV project, we and our coalition partners have worked to collect health care stories from real West Virginians, to help educate the public and our representatives, to try to make positive meaningful policy change in our state. Here is one such powerful story, from a single mother who asked that we keep her name anonymous, using “Jo” as her pseudonym. Her story is shared with her full consent.
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Jo was a teacher’s assistant for 15 years when COVID Hit. “I had to decide to go to work or take unpaid leave. I have a daughter who has several health problems and I am the only caregiver for my mother who is 75 and has multiple health problems. I made my decision for them, and took unpaid leave.”
Unpaid leave meant she was without her primary source of income. “I couldn’t afford to by any means. I had no savings and very little money in the bank. But I didn’t feel that I could risk the lives of my family members by working with the public during a pandemic.”
This also meant she lost her insurance coverage. “Along with losing my pay, I lost my health insurance, and my daughter’s insurance.” She luckily found a part-time remote work position to cover most of their expenses, like rent, food, etc. Being part-time, it was without benefits.
Jo attended one of our coalition’s Health Coverage events last summer. “I had heard that because of COVID, there were changes in the Affordable Care Act and applied. I was hoping to get an affordable health plan that I could have and still pay rent. I have health problems that require medication and monitoring. My daughter couldn’t go a day without insurance. I was very nervous about how much it would cost. If it was $700 (like I would have paid for COBRA) there is no way I could do it.”
She was surprised to hear she and her daughter both qualified for Medicaid. “I am so grateful that Americans in crisis can access this essential coverage. Those few weeks when I was waiting to hear if we would have health coverage were some of the most stressful in my life.”
After a few months on Medicaid, Jo is still learning about how it works. “One thing I have discovered is that we can get services I could never afford to get with the employer-based insurance I paid for for all of those years. I had paid thousands of dollars over 15 years for insurance, and I could not afford certain supplies that would help my daughter’s health, therapies we needed or particular medicines. The out-of-pocket expense was too much, or the insurance refused to pay for certain medicines or supplies.”
“I have come to believe,” Jo said, “through my experiences and the experiences of other people I know, that private health insurance is not the healthiest coverage for many people. Health should not be for-profit. People should not pay for insurance that makes decisions about their health based on the company’s well-being instead of the patient’s well-being. People should not pay for insurance that makes the out-of-pocket costs, premiums and deductibles prohibitive to them seeking the care they need.”
Medicaid has made a significant positive difference in Jo and her daughter’s lives, and she wishes everyone had this option. “I want the peace I feel right now for everyone. I am shocked everytime I go to the pharmacy and have to pay a small copay or none. That is money that can go to bills and food. The stress of affording healthcare in our country is detrimental to our health. People lose their houses paying for healthcare. I don’t know why that is acceptable. We need to transform our healthcare system into a system that takes care of the health of every citizen. We can’t keep this structure that just works for those lucky enough to be able to pay the very high price of being healthy and alive here.”
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If you or a friend have a WV Health Care Story to share, please visit www.tinyurl.com/wvstories21. Use Google Chrome to visit this form, tell us your stories, and digitally sign it. Your stories will NOT be used without YOUR approval or consent. We’d greatly appreciate your help in gathering these stories.
For more information about the Health Care for All WV campaign, visit www.healthcareforallwv.com.
More from our WV Health Care Stories collection: