Fighting the Stigma of Being Uninsured
By: Tracey W., Volusia County
If you live in Florida and do not have health insurance, you are in trouble. You are at the mercy of whichever medical professionals you can get to the quickest. That is a horrible place to be, but that is my current situation. I have worked all my life and when I recently became sick, I was treated so badly that my friends and family had to intervene on my behalf.
In 2017 I was working and developed a staph infection. I didn’t realize that I had staph. Although my body was starting to swell, I continued working because I needed to work. I finally ended up in the ER because my symptoms had gotten so bad. I was even vomiting in the waiting room at the hospital. When I asked for help the nurse yelled at me and I left crying. It was a humiliating experience. When I got home my boyfriend insisted that I go to another hospital, and I’m glad that I listened. That’s where they discovered I had a staph infection and was three hours away from a coma.
Later that year I got sick again. I passed out while wrapping Christmas gifts and woke up in the hospital. The ER staff were rude and acted as though they didn’t want me there. I was diagnosed with Colitis and Crones Disease. However, they refused to give me a referral to see a specialist. They sent me home where my friends and family nursed me back to health.
Each of my ER visits costs between $6,000 and $10,000. It would be so much better if I had health insurance and could see a regular doctor and the specialists I need. I get scared now anytime I go into any hospital. My daughter is a physician in New York. She flew down here to check on me during one of my hospital stays. She was scared to death they were going to kill me or not give me the help I need to survive. She keeps asking me to move to New York because people are treated so much better by the healthcare system. There, if you need Medicaid, you get Medicaid. Doctors don’t send you home if you are sick, they treat you. But I refuse to move. I’m not going to move to get medical care, but I might not have a choice. It’s a fight to survive down here in Florida.
I’ve had to learn the hard way that when I show up in the ER, the staff automatically think you’re a drug addict. That’s a big issue where I live. So now when I go there, I tell them up front that I don’t want pain medication. When they hear that they treat you a little better.
I want to use my story and my voice to make a difference for all Floridians. So many people in this state are battling insurance companies. I’m not speaking out just for me. I want everyone like me to have a shot at getting better so that we can get back to work. But we can’t without Florida’s support. It’s just going to get worse.