Robert is a life-long musician and conducts the Black Tulip Chorale, St. Louis’ LGBTQIA+ friendly chorus for all genders/identities/orientations. For many years, he has also experienced being underinsured both by employers and the Affordable Care Act while living with Diabetes and other preexisting conditions.
In 2006, before the ACA, when he was living in Chicago, Robert worked Barbara’s Bookstores and was insured by Blue Cross Blue Shield. While he technically was covered by the employer-provided plan, it cost $350 per month. To make matters worse, the business owner would retroactively cancel the insurance and pocket the money, despite this being illegal. This meant Robert would go to the doctor thinking he was insured, and then be told that he was not and could not access care; this happened multiple times.
After this, he went without health insurance at all for years. Fortunately, he was able to get low income primary care and prescription assistance from the Howard Brown Health Clinic. Without that care, his Diabetes would have gone untreated for several years. Upon moving to St. Louis and needing medical care, he went to the Betty Jean Kerr Health Center where he would wait in line for hours. He was once so without access to the medications he needed that he resorted to calling his former doctors in Minnesota to ask whether they could mail him his prescriptions. They assented to it once, sending several samples to tide him over until substantive care was available.
He spent many years this way, receiving what he calls “band-aid care”.
In 2015, Robert signed up for a marketplace plan through the ACA, but could only get a low premium, high deductible plan for $2,100 a year for a single person. Then, when he got a raise at the chorus he conducted, his tax credit went down, and his health care costs went up. When he lost his job at that chorus, he reported a life change to healthcare.gov, thus increasing his tax credit. But soon after, the majority of his tax credit was inexplicably taken away. When he called to fix the problem, he was given a mountain of information he was unable to parse through. While unemployed, I was paying almost $500 a month out of pocket on a policy costing around $750 a month.
Even with insurance, in the summer of 2016, he suffered a bad back injury and chose not to go to the ER because of the anticipated costs associated. There have been times when he had to call 30 dentists before he finally got an appointment with someone who would cover him. While the Affordable Care Act has improved access to health care in the U.S. in vital ways, Robert Stumpf and many others remain uninsured or underinsured. After having persevered through years of underinsurance, Robert calls the system “intentionally difficult”.