In September 2020, I thought I was having a miscarriage, and I was terrified. I lived in Port Angeles, Washington, and I went to the Emergency Room at Olympic Medical Center. Port Angeles is a rural area, there is only one other hospital nearby (an hour away), so I felt like I did not have a choice to go to any other hospital. After hours in the ER, I found out that it was not a miscarriage, and I was okay.
I had quit my job right before the pandemic started, so my income was $0. My husband had lost his job at the start of the pandemic, so he was receiving unemployment. We had a “bronze” plan through the Health Plan Finder exchange. Hospital staff did not talk to me about the bill I would receive or ask if I needed financial assistance, but I knew about the charity care program, so I asked for an application. I applied and the hospital “forgave” part of my bill–I think it was about 60%. After that, I still owed the hospital $634. My husband and I were able to pay this bill, but it was difficult for us.
I see a mental health therapist who does not accept/bill insurance. I have been paying $180/week out of pocket for mental health care for years. When I have “good” insurance, I can get reimbursed for part of it. When I don’t have good insurance, I can’t get reimbursed for any of it. Without this ongoing expense, there are many things I could have used this money for–including helping to pay tuition for graduate school.
My whole career has been devoted to helping other people get health insurance, access medical care, and pay their medical bills. Even so, I have ended up in several situations where I had difficulty affording my own medical bills. I have avoided medical care and been afraid to go to the doctor several times. As a graduate student, having less income has made it difficult for me to access mental health care services.
Help us change the health care system.