by Peg O’Connell
This is the tale of 3 sisters who grew up in Southeastern Ohio.
The oldest was the bookish type, she became a lawyer and married a lawyer. She worked for a variety of corporations and large non-profits and has always had health insurance as part of her job.
The middle sister was a whiz with figures and accounts and, back when people did this type of thing, could run an adding machine faster than anyone in Washington County. She married a man who worked for a plumbing supply company and she went to work in the finance department of a local municipal government. Because of her job, the family always had employer paid health insurance.
The youngest sister loved being outdoors. She loved digging in the dirt, planting things and watching them grow. She worked as a landscape designer and a floral arranger. She married a man who hung drywall and was known to be one of the best in all of Southeastern Ohio. They have both always been self-employed and never had access to affordable health insurance. They were hard working people but could not afford the very high premiums to buy individual health insurance in the private market.
The two older sisters constantly worried about the health of the youngest sister. What if something happened? What if she or her husband got sick or injured—their work is hard physical labor.
And then it happened, the youngest sister got sick and had to have an emergency operation. Fortunately, it was something that could be fixed with surgery and was not a diagnosis or cancer or something worse. But it scared the whole family and cost a small fortune—because she was uninsured. The hospital in her town worked with her and set up a payment plan. She will be paying for that operation for years to come—but she got the surgery she needed and could get back to the work that she loved. I am very grateful, because as you may have guessed—this is the story of my family and my younger sister.
At one time, this story was all too common across the United States, but this version has a happy ending. In 2010 Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to help hard working people like my sister, and in 2013 my home state of Ohio expanded its Medicaid program to cover people who don’t make enough to qualify for a subsidy on the market place.
Now my sister has health insurance and she is healthy. She is under the care of a wonderful nurse practitioner who sees her regularly and makes sure that her blood pressure stays normal, her blood sugar levels are good and all the other things that those of us who are insured take for granted. Ohio’s Medicaid expansion program has been a real blessing for our family.
Now it is time for North Carolina to step up and do the same thing for the hard-working people of our state. Too many sisters, brother, moms and dads are not getting the care they need because they can’t afford the price of health insurance. North Carolina deserves a happy ending—it is way past time to close the coverage gap.