With great joy, my wife and I celebrate American Heart Month with its spotlight on heart disease, the No. 1 killer of Americans. Valentine’s Day will be here soon, and being married for almost 35 years, it was long ago that we both pledged, “My heart is and always will be yours.”
We celebrate Heart Month to rejoice in my triumph over heart disease, a journey that was made even more difficult due to lack of health insurance. In January 2003, at 41 years of age, I had my first of eight heart catheterizations and four stents placed in my heart’s coronary arteries. At that time, I had excellent coverage from a company-provided health care plan.
Three years later, despite my best efforts of diet, exercise, and medicine, I underwent a triple coronary artery bypass operation. I was laid off from my company just 11 days before the procedure. Afterward, I had to pay full price for my medicines, my doctors’ visits, and my surgery bills. This strapped my family financially and was a stressful time for us. I hurried to mend so that I could obtain employment. I needed not only wages – I needed health insurance. Once I was employed several months later, to cut my family’s financial burdens, I skipped days of medications, quit taking several altogether, and prayed that these actions had no adverse implications to my health.
I’m in the minority of our fellow citizens as I eventually obtained insurance coverage – many can’t. These are working families with paying jobs whose combined incomes don’t cover their living expenses and health insurance. It is past time that our state legislature address expanding health insurance coverage for low-income individuals and families. As a byproduct of our current COVID-induced pandemic, many citizens have lost their healthcare as they’ve lost their employment. This is on top of the more than 400,000 uninsured people in the insurance gap before 2020.
Now is the time for all hard-working citizens in North Carolina to have access to health insurance. Our General Assembly needs to work together and notice that 38 other states have made their citizens’ health a priority.
Let’s show North Carolina love and close the Health Insurance Coverage Gap.
Rocky Mount, NC