I’m Covered Stories: “Being Covered Means Everything to Me”

Posted July 22, 2014
By Judy Sarasohn, Public Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services

What’s worse than passing out in pain on a Philadelphia street corner after your leg starts to rapidly swell to twice its normal size?

Landing in the emergency room after that ordeal with no health insurance.

Ruth: "Being covered means everything to me." Yvonne Jones, Philadelphia, PA. HealthCare.gov. That’s exactly what happened to Yvonne Jones, a 44-year-old Philly woman who, like too many other Americans, could not afford coverage, much less quality coverage, even though she worked full-time at a well-regarded but low-paying nonprofit.

“I frequently had to choose between rent, utilities, and food despite being employed full-time,” Yvonne told me.

In Yvonne’s case, it was a suddenly expanding fibroid tumor that painfully pressed on a nerve near her spine and led to her leg swell last year. But the possibility of developing a fatal embolism made surgery too dangerous. She couldn’t afford the medication she could take on her own at home, so her doctor kept her in the hospital for a month. Yvonne racked up $96,000 in medical bills, which the hospital’s charity care program is covering. Nonetheless, she still has a few thousand dollars in bills left to pay.

She started earning a better income through freelance writing and media archiving, but it was just enough to put qualifying for Medicaid out of reach and not enough to afford private insurance. But Yvonne was determined to get control of her health. During open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace earlier this year, she found a silver plan that she liked and could afford. Since she qualified for assistance, the plan costs about $120 a month.

Yvonne’s coverage went into effect May 1, just six days before her doctor decided she couldn’t delay the surgery any longer to remove the now eight-pound tumor.

She can’t begin to think what her medical bills might have been without insurance. So far Yvonne said she’s only received notices saying her care was covered. Her plan even covered the cost of a nurse to follow up with her at home.

Yvonne also believes that as an African-American woman, having health insurance means being in better control of her health. As a group, African-Americans face significant health disparities and are 55 percent more likely to go uninsured than white Americans.

“If you have insurance, you’re much more likely to be on top of your health care. You don’t let things slide because you can’t afford it,” she said. “Being covered means everything to me.”

While open enrollment doesn’t begin again until November, you may be able to enroll now in a Marketplace plan because of special circumstances, such as aging off a parent’s plan at 26, having a child, or moving to a new area.  You can also find out if you qualify for Medicaid.

Why wait? Check out your options today. And if you have insurance, check out these resources to help you make the most of your health coverage.

Content last reviewed on July 22, 2014