Healthcare Reform: For Her, a Long-Awaited Lifeline

After struggling for years, a sickle cell anemia sufferer may finally get coverage

When I had pneumonia earlier this year the only reason that I even went to the emergency room was that I had this really sharp pain in my lower back on the right side. At that point my sister hadn’t even been dead for six months (she died from complications of sickle cell). Her kidneys failed two days before she died, and I thought, well, shoot, maybe this is my kidneys. So I was just kind of panicked.

They sent me home with antibiotics for the pneumonia, which cost $125 dollars for 10 pills. The antibiotics didn’t work and it was getting worse. I went back to the hospital and the ER doctor said, “You have sickle cell. We should have kept you. We need to admit you.” And I said, “I can't be admitted. I don't have insurance. I can't afford it.” And he said, “If we don't admit you, it’s going to spread and you will probably die.” My parents were there and my dad said, “Do you want to die? Who cares about the bill? You know you need medical attention.” So after arguing with my parents and the doctor for about an hour, I decided to allow them to admit me. The hospital bill was $7,000, which I am still paying off.

I have shopped for health insurance, but it’s been closed doors left and right. I can’t purchase an individual policy because of my pre-existing condition. Every single service provider that I contacted has the rule that if you are a small business you have to have at least two full-time employees. But I only have part-time employees.

Most people I tell about my situation are outraged. Some people say, “Hey, you should go and fill out paperwork for MediCal [California’s Medicaid program].” But I would have had to bend the truth a little bit to qualify and I don't believe in doing that.

What I want is for anybody who wants insurance to have insurance. I want people to be allowed to receive coverage from any company of their choosing at an affordable price.

Next: How would health care reform help Jon’ette?

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