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Back to Work: Insurance Helps Ill Taxi Driver

13th August 2014 by Anya Krenicki Comments Off

Matis

Ioan Matis—Chicago, IL

Ioan Matis [pictured above with girlfriend Barbara Frills] was forced to leave work due to poor health. Thanks to his new health care coverage, he was able to see the necessary doctors. 

When Ioan Matis left his native Romania to live in the States, he drove taxi cabs to make a living. Matis made a 20 year career from driving cabs until recently, when he was forced to stop due to a variety of health issues.

Various symptoms plagued Matis, says his girlfriend Barbara Frills, speaking on Matis’ behalf due to a language barrier. Matis, who was uninsured as long as he was a taxi driver, avoided going to the doctor, as the couple knew that they could not afford the costs of tests and possible treatments.

“He would get advice when there was a problem,” says Frills. “We would call and get advice from a doctor, or give a doctor the symptoms, or we’d go to the pharmacy and they’d recommend something over the counter.”

Matis knew that he suffered from hypertension, but the specifics of his condition remained a mystery says Frills. Frills, who is unemployed due to disability, says that she has the benefit of a Medicaid medical card; the couple sought out a means to secure Medicaid coverage for Matis as well.

A fellow member of the couple’s church was recently enrolled in the state’s Medicaid expansion program through Campaign for Better Health Care (CBHC) and passed along the contact information for CBHC Navigator Cheryl Gay. The couple set up an appointment for Matis.

“She was very pleasant,” says Frills of Gay. “She helped us understand everything.”

Once Matis was enrolled, he made a doctor’s appointment—his first in a long time. Frills says that the doctors completed a variety of tests, and that the couple waited anxiously for the news.

Happily, Matis and Frills were met with great news: there were no complications from Matis’ hypertension. In fact, they hypertension itself had been alleviated. Unfortunately, the restoration of Matis’ normal blood pressure levels came at the price of taking time off and losing much-needed income, but Matis now hopes to return to work very shortly.

“Everything has been great, and I thank Cheryl and [Campaign for Better Health Care] for introducing us to this health plan,” says Frills.

 

No More Suffering: Affordable Prescription Costs

8th August 2014 by Anya Krenicki Comments Off

rose bean

Rose Bean—Blue Island, IL  

Rose has suffered with chronic, debilitating migraines for years. Now that she is insured, she can afford her medications and treatment.

For Rose Bean, a day without her prescription medications is like a day in hell.
“I’m just in bed with a blanket over my head,” says Bean, “not being able to look at light, not being able to move, sick to my stomach.”

Bean has suffered from chronic, debilitating migraines for years. She has been seeing a neurologist for around 10 years, trying nearly everything to help alleviate the headaches. In 2011, Bean was laid off from her position at a market maker firm; the firm was bought-out and was executing major layoffs, dissolving the majority of Bean’s office.

“Losing the insurance, believe it or not, that hurt worse than losing the actual job,” says Bean.

For some time, Bean and her husband made due with an insurance plan provided to part time employees by her husband’s employer.

“They offered insurance for part-time employees,” says Bean. “But their insurance was so bad that they dropped it instead of improving the services that they would give to their people. They said ‘oh, it’s not worth the trouble,’ and they dropped us completely. So that was our problem; we were just dropped at the end of the year….That was difficult…”

Suddenly, Bean could not afford her medications.  She applied for disability after being laid off, but was rejected. She and her husband, who also suffers from chronic conditions, were forced to compromise: medications, or food?

“Usually, if I get all of [my medications] filled, [the cost] is between $200 and $300,” she says. “I have to take only half of the pills, or a quarter of the pills…whatever I can afford that month. It [is] that kind of a choice–do I feed my family for the month, or do I get my medications that I need to live [through] my day?”

Bean heard about Cheryl, a Campaign for Better Health Care (CBHC) Navigator, from a friend that was enrolled at a local food pantry; she decided to make the trip. Within “an hour and 11 minutes” of meeting with Cheryl, Bean says that she was enrolled in Medicaid.

She called in her prescriptions and was shocked to find that, under Medicaid, they would now only set her back $8.

“The big stuff is getting maintenance drugs so that I can do stuff like get out of the house and look at a computer,” says Bean, “And you know, look at a list of doctors. Before it was like, I can’t even open my eyes. I can’t even watch TV. It’s just bad.”

Bean says that she has been perusing lists of doctors who accept Medicaid so that she can continue her migraine treatment.  She hopes to one day be able to go off of her medications and to explore other treatments, like Botox, that have been shown to reduce migraines.

“What [Campaign for Better Health Care] did was amazing. I really wish there were more people like [Cheryl] in the world,” says Bean. “It isn’t just her job, she wants to help, and she asks the right questions because she knows… what people need or what their problems are. She thinks about stuff that other people might ignore because it might mean extra work for them. That is the thing about Cheryl; it has been a while since I found somebody that was helpful.”

“[I]ran into her yesterday, when we went back to the food pantry,” says Bean, “I was able to go by myself because I was actually able to go out in the daylight. I’m outside! I actually got a little sun! I’m actually awake! It is a nice feeling.”

 

 

 

 

 

Health Care on a Tight Budget

30th July 2014 by Anya Krenicki Comments Off

ken jones

Ken Jones—Blue Island, IL 

Uninsured for 10 years, Ken Jones is happy that–thanks to Medicaid– a visit to the doctor will no longer break the bank. 

Prior to 2004, Ken Jones says that he “never worried about a thing” when it came to health care. Back then, Jones worked in the stock market and enjoyed the health benefits that his employer provided; when he was laid off in ’04, however, worry began to sink in.

For the past nearly ten years, Jones has wavered between unemployment and part-time jobs, all the while without insurance. During those years, Jones has dealt with various medical situations, including a serious burn that he sustained while working in a restaurant. “I would try to deal with it myself,” says Jones, stating that the cost of a doctor or hospital visit was out of the question.

Jones, who lives with roommates, describes their tight budget: “We don’t even live paycheck to paycheck,” he says, “We live penny to penny.”

Currently, Jones is working part-time at PetSmart. He says that all of the roommates help one another out, but it often comes down to tough budget decisions like, “Do we get [a roommate] her medication for migraines, or do we eat?”

Hopefully, now the answer can be ‘both!’ Jones was inspired to enroll by a CBHC navigator who found out that Jones was qualified for Medicaid. Soon, Jones’ roommates followed suit and enrolled as well.

Jones plans to see a doctor regarding a back injury that he has been trying to ignore, and he says that he plans on pursuing a primary care doctor as well. As for his roommates, Jones says that they are excited to be on board, and are very happy to be offered $2 prescriptions.

“Insurance helps, it really does,” he says.

 

 

Covering the Costs of a Chronic Condition

22nd July 2014 by Anya Krenicki Comments Off

Lisa Sinnott–La Grange Park, IL 

Lisa Sinnott first shared her story with CBHC in December 2013. We caught up with her to see how her story has evolved over the last few months.

“I have a chronic condition and need ongoing healthcare.  I lost my job last year and was having trouble getting work for some months.  I have training in ministry and love to help people.  However, sometimes a single job does not pay all the bills.  I work hard, I sometimes take on several small jobs and I also work like an independent contractor through various ministry roles.  Because I qualified for Medicaid, as well as the Marketplace, I have been able to work at the jobs and opportunities I have needed to further my dreams into roles such [as] a chaplain or campus minister someday.”

“In the meantime, I have a good coverage under Blue Cross Blue Shield to get access to local doctors and specialists and have Medicaid as a secondary insurance to cover the extra out of pocket expenses.  Blue Cross covers the cost of medications that I need and are ongoing.”

“My hope for continued reform is that people can continue to work as they are able and afford the coverage beyond the premiums and deductibles.  My hope is that people who need the marketplace or Medicaid can also negotiate the out of pocket costs that can happen due to unexpected health issues and emergencies.  Healthcare should be free or fixed in cost.  That is my hope.”

“If people can afford a trip on CTA for work, they should also be able to afford healthcare costs due to conditions they acquire in life or are born with.  My hope for Medicaid is to be more broadly accepted for dental, podiatry, mental health, recovery of addiction, and general doctors in clinics for preventive measures. There is so much need and too much costing the individuals of the United States.”

Watch Lisa tell her story in December 2013http://youtu.be/h6iCwJTbkF8?list=UUp9j9NfXjzoKNPdxMJ3MWzw

Freelance Musician Benefits from a Special Enrollment Period

11th July 2014 by Anya Krenicki Comments Off

200. Emily Barrett 

Emily B.—Chicago,IL 

Due to loss of her coverage, freelance musician Emily qualified for a Special Enrollment Period. 

Emily, 23, had been insured under her father’s employment insurance throughout her childhood and into young adulthood. This July, however, Emily’s father retired, leaving her family without health coverage.

Emily is a freelance musician who, for the past four years, has held anywhere between 3 to 7 different jobs at one time. Currently, she works as a piano accompanist for a variety of dance and musical theater companies. As a freelancer, Emily could not receive health benefits from any of her jobs; she sought out the help of CBHC navigator, Cheryl.

“I really like the idea of having a navigator,” says Emily, who says she needed someone to explain her options to her. “Cheryl was really helpful…it was a learning process for both of us.”

Cheryl and Emily discovered that, luckily, Emily qualified for a ‘special enrollment period.’ Due to loss of coverage in the interim between open enrollment sessions, Emily was still eligible for a Marketplace plan.

Relatively healthy, Emily says that she was looking for a plan that would help with the occasional doctor’s visit—“for a cold or sinus infection”—and generic prescriptions. She signed up for a Marketplace plan with a $5,000 deductible and $147 monthly premium.

“In 2 hours I had a plan that I felt comfortable with,” says Emily.