My experiences today are a good example of what millions of uninsured Americans are dealing with. I believe I have a sinus infection, and wanted to be seen by a doctor. I don’t have health insurance. As a result, I ended up calling several places before I could get an appointment, (and no one would tell me what the visit to the doctor will cost me).
I am someone who has severe, chronic, allergies, (to food, to environmental allergens, to animals, and to a variety of substances that can make my skin break out in hives). Many of the people who have sinus allergies as severe as mine end up getting sinus infections, or bronchitis, at least once a year. This is definitely true in my case.
As a result, I know exactly when I need to see a doctor, and exactly which kind of antibiotic will be the most effective for me. The problem is, since I don’t have health insurance, it becomes extremely difficult for me to see a doctor.
Recently, I learned that I qualified for Family PACT. It isn’t health insurance, but it does help people who are low-income to be able to afford birth control, and advice about family planning. It is a government program that exists in California, where I live.
I am thankful for this program because it enabled me to get birth control. Without health insurance coverage, it would be financially impossible for my husband and I to pay for the medical bills involved with pregnancy, prenatal care, childbirth in a hospital, post-natal care, or the many health care needs that children require. I am trying to prevent us from having to file for bankruptcy due to medical bills that we will never be able to pay for.
Family PACT only covers family planning, so I cannot use it to help me see a doctor for my sinus infection. I will be paying for the doctor visit out of my own pocket, with no help from any type of health insurance. Therefore, I decided it would be a good idea to attempt to find a clinic that could, potentially, offer me affordable medical care. I hoped to find one with a sliding scale, that took into account the fact that people who are as low-income as I am can’t afford to spend a lot on health care.
First, I tried the local Community Health Center. This is a non-profit network of health centers. Their mission is “to enhance the health status of all people in the Central Coast of California, with special emphasis on the medically underserved, by providing accessible, affordable, comprehensive & quality healthcare services, through well trained professional staff, in strategically located health centers”.
They were unable to help me. First, they wouldn’t answer their phone. When someone did pick up, that person directed me to call another phone number within their system. One person insisted that I should go to the clinic located in a town rather far away from where I live, instead of the one located in my town.
They refused to tell me what it would cost to see a doctor. They have a sliding scale, but, require proof of earnings before they can tell me what it would cost. The out of town clinic is far away, so I can add the money I would spend on gas to whatever it was going to cost to see a doctor. It seemed like a gamble.
Instead, I will be seeing the doctor that I think of as my “primary care physician”. I started seeing this doctor when I had a job that offered employer sponsored health insurance. I was able to get an appointment, but the person who answered the phone cannot tell me what it will cost for me to see my doctor. She did emphasize that they do not use a sliding scale. Last time, it cost around $100, (for just a five minute visit for the doctor to look at a skin rash). I will end up putting the cost of the doctor’s visit, and the cost of the antibiotics I require, on a credit card.
Image by Brittany G on Flickr