Please Take My Sick Away

I recently read an article in Sunday’s Washington Post that reminded me so much of the patients and providers where I work.  I work in Administration at a health center located in the Arkansas Delta.  The similarities between the health center in West Virginia and our patients in the Arkansas Delta were significant: at the poverty level or below, diagnosis of chronic illnesses, non-compliant (medication, exercise and diet, and hoping that their condition will disappear with one visit to the health center. This article left me pondering: What will happen if they no longer have health care?  I already have an answer: it will be catastrophic.

I think about women across Arkansas who remind me so much of myself who will be without health insurance.  Those, like me, who are not at the age where they can receive Medicare.  I do not qualify for Medicaid and based on the proposed Republican plan, I would not be able to afford health insurance.  Women without minor children and those who have not reached the age to qualify for Medicare would be without health insurance.  It is a time in our lives where we need health coverage, but cannot afford it.  It is not just the middle age women such as myself who will be affected, but a majority of women period.

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The proposal places women without minor children and those who have not reached the age to qualify for Medicare at risk of being without health insurance.  For many of us, we are at a time in our lives where we need health coverage, but cannot afford it.  It is not just the middle age women such as myself who will be affected, but a majority of women barring a qualifying disability, or those who have children who qualify for assistance.  Women like me will be left to seek medical assistance from a health center that offers a sliding fee scale or no medical care at all.  All too often, and especially within poor and low-income communities the decision is to avoid seeking medical care at all.

Before the Affordable Care Act, many folks had not seen a medical provider in more than 20 to 30 years.  The Affordable Care Act gave them the chance to seek medical treatment for chronic illnesses that they had suffered from for numerous years.  Now chances are we will return to a culture of failure to seek medical treatment due to inaccessibility.

African American women disproportionately suffer from diabetes, hypertension, cervical cancer, breast cancer and obesity. Not only do we experience many of these health issues at an alarming rate, but we face increased risks with aging. I can empathize with the woman who is about to lose her foot because she failed to seek medical treatment for her diabetes because she could not afford it. I can see the same pain and struggle for the young woman in her thirties who has had spotting for months along with pelvic pain, but is afraid to go to the doctor and who will not be able to afford treatment and proper diagnosis. I know these women because I’ve seen them.

The proposed cuts to the Affordable Care Act leave me with questions. I certainly cannot be assured that programs that help with mammograms and other women’s wellness exams would not be affected.  Although many providers depend on private funds, many rely on federal and state funding leaving them especially vulnerable under an administration that lacks concern for the poor or people of color.

In two years, I will be eligible for Medicare. I cannot safely say that I will be able to receive  Medicare.  Why?  I have no idea what this Administration will do to any benefit regardless of its status as need-based or earned. I currently suffer from Osteoarthritis and I’m left with a big question: Will I be able to afford the treatment that I now receive or will I have to suffer through each day in debilitating pain?  Though I am presently covered through my employer, I’m nearing retirement and questioning this decision altogether. More than this, I worry about my sisters who will suffer.  I think often about Black women who will fail to seek treatment for a host of issues but especially for those battling depression which may lead to suicide.  Sisters who choose to drink vinegar to lower their blood pressure because they cannot afford their medication. I worry about the future of medical care for Black women as a whole.  I worry that I will have to say, “Mr. President and Mr. Congressman/woman, I cannot afford insurance so would you please take my sick away?”

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