Abby, Joplin

Abby is a 35-year-old in Joplin resident with pre-existing conditions. Before she was 20, she was diagnosed with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), a condition associated with the development of tumors on endocrine glands. She had to undergo many visits, tests, and two surgeries to diagnose, treat and manage her condition. When she graduated from college with a degree in theology and intercultural studies, she intended to go overseas to Taiwan and began the process of applying for health care coverage on her own. It was then that she discovered how hard it would be to get coverage with her pre-existing condition.

The insurance companies that provided coverage for going overseas required her last 5 years of medical records. Abby’s medical history was so extensive at that point, she had to send the stack of records in a box. She was told that the insurance company didn’t even look through her records – when they saw how large the stack was, they denied her coverage immediately. Because of this discriminatory practice, Abby was denied her dream to live and work overseas. She took a job as a barista at Starbucks instead and was able to get health coverage through their employee plan, just in time to need another surgery.

Although Abby was getting the health coverage she needed to manage her condition, she didn’t see Starbucks as her ultimate career path. She left to start working at a local non-profit, Rapha House, to provide necessary help to victims of sex trafficking. Although she was following a passion, this job did not offer health benefits. She was able to maintain her Starbucks COBRA coverage for 1.5 years by paying an increased premium and underwent surgery to remove part of her pancreas and spleen. When her COBRA coverage ended, Abby entered the Missouri high-risk pool and obtained bare-minimum coverage for $700 a month – roughly half of her monthly income. Soon after, she realized this expensive plan was not sustainable for her and she returned to Starbucks.

“My career path has been dictated very fundamentally by the ability to obtain affordable insurance”

In 2014, Abby was diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer and had to have her pancreas removed, effectively making her a secondary diabetic. The surgery was successful and she has been in remission since, but her health and life are forever impacted by her dependency on external insulin. Thankfully, Abby was able to go back to school to get her MBA and now has a full-time job with comprehensive health coverage and she is able to maintain her health. “To me, a good job doesn’t necessarily mean making lots of money – it means being able to get the medical care that I need,” Abby says.