Ginnie Graham: Health-care issues not going away
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Saturday, December 01, 2012
12/01/12 at 4:27 AM
No one asked Janna Carlile what she thought of the health-care exchange and Medicaid expansion.
"I have a voice, but it's not a big one or loud one. And it's one that gets ignored quite a bit," she said. "People tend to not listen to other people who don't have as much."
The 52-year-old Tulsa woman has worked her entire life, once in the middle class and then plummeting to the razor's edge of poverty.
Having spent the last few years struggling to find health insurance she could afford, she was intrigued by elements in the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
She watched political debates, read newspaper and magazine articles and listened to the pros and cons posed by pundits and political leaders.
She noticed that the opinions of the working poor were not part of the conversation.
"I don't want a handout, and I'm not a freeloader. I work very hard and pay taxes like everyone else. I should be listened to."
Decision: It's been nearly two weeks since Gov. Mary Fallin turned down $3.6 billion the federal government would have provided over the next seven years to increase health-care coverage by expanding Medicaid.
Part of the law raises eligibility standards and provides graduated subsidies for families earning between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line to help them buy insurance.
Carlile and her husband fall into that category. Both have been working in call centers.
"I make too much money to qualify for SoonerCare but not enough to buy health insurance," she said.
Carlile originally paid about a third of her paycheck for insurance through her employer but found that few Tulsa doctors accepted the obscure policy. She declined coverage to look on her own for a policy.
She contacted about 30 companies for a plan costing less than $200 a month. The cheapest she found was for $284.
"Trying to buy an individual health insurance plan is a nightmare and is so stressful," she said. "I just cried sometimes. I looked for a long time, before Obama was elected and after.
"I was healthy," Carlile said. "I didn't have medical issues or have a chronic illness. I don't drink or smoke and was done having kids. I'm not asking for gold-standard coverage. I needed something very basic."
Then, she was diagnosed with diabetes and landed in the intensive care unit. She developed pneumonia and contracted influenza, leading to bronchitis and wage losses of more than a month.
She now owes about $60,000 in medical bills.
"Having coverage would have helped me avoid that," Carlile said. "I wouldn't have stayed away from doctor visits and let my symptoms get worse."
Three weeks ago, she and her husband were laid off, and they are both looking for work.
Change: Obamacare isn't going away.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is suing the federal government over the act's provisions, and Republican governors are banding together to reject federal money.
The health-care status quo isn't working, and things need to change.
Carlile's story has become common. Just read the Tulsa World's Neediest Families stories to see that.
But during this ongoing discussion, voices like hers need to be heard.
"Nothing changes for me," Carlile said. "I will continue to be out of the loop."
Original Print Headline: Health-care issues not going away