Louis is a 47 year old St. Louis citizen who knows first-hand the difficulty in navigating the healthcare system without insurance. Born with type 1 diabetes, Louis could never qualify for insurance with a pre-existing condition. Even after laws were passed that gave Louis more options to sign up for insurance, he found himself unable to afford the high premiums offered by marketplace insurance. He also made too much money to qualify for Medicaid and was left in the coverage gap.
With no access to affordable insurance, Louis has to strategize ways to make his medication and medical supplies last when treating his Type 1 diabetes. Rather than using both short and long acting insulin that he needs, Louis is limited to the Walmart brand short acting insulin and has even had to reuse needles when money is tight. Louis is supposed to see a doctor every 3 months to check on his blood sugar and overall health but is unable to afford these appointments. This inability to do maintenance and preventative care has wound Louis in the emergency room several times. Louis says he likely owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to various hospitals around St. Louis. He further states, “it makes you feel bad, you know? It makes me feel like I am sponging off the system but I have no choice. I’m just trying to survive and it makes me feel bad that I can’t afford to pay for the care I receive”. In addition to the overwhelming medical bills, Louis noted that he has lost at least three jobs due to his inability to maintain consistent health and is now unemployed.
Recently, Louis had to get an emergency aortic valve replacement in his heart. This procedure cost him $25,000. He is applying for financial assistance to get some of these bills paid but does not know what he will do if he is not approved. Louis states, “If I had been able to see the doctor regularly like I am supposed to, I would be so much healthier. I almost died a few weeks ago-I had open heart surgery. That could have been avoided”. Now Louis is expected to see a doctor weekly for check-ups and is being prescribed medications, both of which he cannot afford. As he states, “It is a political thing. They didn’t do the right thing by not expanding. It makes people like me feel like Missouri doesn’t care about the people. Either they don’t see it or they don’t care, I don’t know which but we need Medicaid expansion”. Upon reflection of his health and its connection to politics Louis goes on to say, “I never really thought about it until recently but this is all connected. My health is suffering because of politics. If it wasn’t for the charity of the hospital I got my emergency surgery from, I would be dead. Medicaid expansion would improve the lives of so many people. I could be working right now and contribute to our economy if I had just had access to medical care”.