I was a featured speaker at something called “Health Care Speak-Out” last evening. I was assigned the task of speaking as an expert on the local healthcare safety net, based on my background and experience. (Note: there is overlap in some of the following year counts) I worked 17 years in ER Medicine, 9 years in HIV Primary Care (after help start the program in the Lake County Health Department), 13 years Primary Care (at HealthReach, a free medical clinic that I founded and served as a volunteer physician and Medical Director). In addition, I have served as the Lake County Coroner almost 4 years.
I have seen problems with our healthcare safety net in every one of these positions. As a matter of fact problems in our healthcare safety net that I saw drove me to do something about it (HealthReach and the HIV practice). I discussed the numbers of uninsured and underinsured in the area, what HealthReach and the Health Department have done to serve as the safety net, the inadvisability of use of the ER as part of the safety net, deaths I have seen due to lack of healthcare access, and discussed some individuals that have stuck out in my mind and are examples of what should not happen in the USA and why we need to change our healthcare system as a whole.
Others spoke about the Health Care for America Now initiative, the YWCA and their efforts in healthcare (primarily health screenings), and the difficulties of small businesses affording health care for their employees. It was a very interesting and well done event.
In addition, audience members were allowed to “speak-out”. I wanted to relate at least a bit of what one of the attendees talked about. I was definitely struck by his story. It is all the more reason to fight for change in our currently health (insurance) care system.
He owns a small business (more or less he and his wife run it) and is in his 50’s. His business got real busy for a stretch and they forgot to send in a monthly payment for their health insurance. A single missed payment to an insurance company he and his family had been insured with many years. He received a notice of cancellation, but when he tried to pay the skipped payment and get reinstated he was told he would have to re-apply, as if new customers. He went through that process, not really understanding why it was necessary, but was denied coverage. A short while before this reapplication he had been diagnosed with high cholesterol. Ultimately, he got his wife and children re-insured with the company, but he remains uninsured/uninsurable.
If he gets ill he fears he will bankrupt his family and business. He is afraid for his health, his life (physically and in the broader sense with his wife and family), his family. He spoke of some drastic plans.
This, too, should not happen in the USA.
Health care access is a nonpartisan, social justice issue worth fighting for NOW.