Not too long ago a couple came into my office and they left happy, excited and afraid that I was lying.
Yes, you heard me right. They were afraid that I was lying because the news of having affordable healthcare coverage for the first time seemed unreal to them.
I assured them that I wasn’t lying, and that the letter they would receive from Access Health CT, the State exchange, would serve as temporary proof of coverage until the permanent insurance cards came in.
The couple cried, and then I cried with them. Over the course of two-plus hours we spent together, we had gotten to know and trust each other. I had gotten to know their story and I joined them in their sense of emotional and financial relief.
The couple apologized for crying and hugged me as they left my office.
When I first met the couple they were understandably upset because the husband had just lost his job and the minimal insurance they had shared through his work would end in less than a week.
I was able to schedule to meet with them just two days before their insurance would expire.
They were a lovely couple—she was from the local area and he was born in Puerto Rico. They shared many stories with me while I put their information into the portal.
The wife had several brain surgeries due to a unique medical condition. Her last surgery was fairly recent and was worried about not being covered with supplemental insurance. She has Medicare, and even with her husband’s insurance, they still experienced great financial hardship because of the out-of-pocket expenses for co-pays and medications.
The couple took pride in having worked all their lives, asking for no public assistance—and now they were worried, as they did not have COBRA-type insurance options available. At one point, they had to pay $1,900 for coverage under COBRA—more than the cost of their mortgage. They were afraid they would have to go bankrupt, and with the wife’s medical condition, there was no way they could not have coverage.
The entire enrollment process was my longest to date—2.25 hours. I had to contact the Call Center a few times during our visit; primarily because the system was running slowly and I was afraid it would crash before I could help this couple.
But in the end, it was so well worth it. Ultimately, this hard-working couple and their son were eligible for HUSKY insurance. This means there would be no expense whatsoever. Her life-saving medications, one costing more than $400 out-of-pocket would now be covered at no cost to them.
As an added bonus (I called to verify the information before sharing it with them), instead of needing to wait until March 1, 2014 for coverage to begin, because they qualified for HUSKY, coverage would begin right away.
Healthcare is personal. I know this because I am a trained “In-Person Assister.” What this really means is that I have been trained and certified to help community members through the online application for health insurance coverage. There are a few hundred of us throughout the state; and like others, I’ve experienced my share of challenges as an Assister, but with anything it’s the successes that keep us going.
So now when I get frustrated at system hiccups and other internal issues (and there are many, but that’s for another time), I remember this couple.
I have helped about 40 families enroll for healthcare, and each family I help has a story. Some stories, like this one stays with you for a good while.
So ends this installment of “News from the Front Lines.” Stay tuned for more.
Top Image by Idiolector under creative common license and bottom right courtesy of Stephanye Clarke.