Sunday, September 25, 2022

The Journal Of Steffanie Rivers: The Coronavirus and the Uninsured

Steffanie Rivers
Steffanie Rivers

At last count at least 500 Americans across thirty states are known to have contracted the coronavirus. The first cases were reported on the west coast. In less than a month it has made it’s way to the east coast.

The Center For Disease Control said 1,500 people have been tested, 19 have died from it and countless others could be carrying the virus without knowing it, because symptoms are similar to the common cold or flu.

People who suspect they might have the virus are told to go to their doctor for confirmation. But what about the millions of people who don’t have a regular doctor, because they don’t have medical insurance?

Those who have a regular doctor through their medical insurance plan most likely are charged a co-pay which could be around $25. For those people who don’t have medical insurance, it could cost a few hundred dollars, the full price of a doctor’s visit.

While President Donald Trump approved the $8 billion emergency bill passed by Congress to pay for the development of a vaccine and other virus research, nobody has mentioned poor people in this monetary equation. And Trump already is working to abolish the Affordable Healthcare Act designed to offer medical coverage for all Americans.

Last week Yvette Stephens wrote a letter to the editor in USA Today. According to the letter to the editor, Stephens lives in New Jersey and works as a contracted security guard at Newark International Airport. Stephens is not a government employee, rather she works for a security company that has a contract with the airport.

When she started the security job it came with hourly pay and no health benefits. Her income qualified her for Medicaid, which is government-assisted medical insurance. Stephens suffers from multiple sclerosis which causes her to have a compromised immune system.

When some of her coworkers negotiated for higher wages, the pay increase disqualified her for Medicaid. Now she has no insurance and is fearful that she cold contract coronavirus because of the potential contact at the airport.

Stephens and other employees easily come in contact with half a million people in a week’s time at the Newark Airport. Some of those people might have traveled to China in the past month. Some of them might have kissed somebody who came back from China in the past month. Now they’re possibly carrying a deadly virus. All Stephens – and other uninsured people like her – can do now is practice preventative maintenance and hope for the best. Yet preventative maintenance costs money too, though not as much as paying for a cure. For people like Stephens who have to take from Peter to Pay doctor Paul for a much-needed doctor’s visit, that could mean a missed car payment, missed rent payment or missed meals. Neglected bills could lead to bad credit reports. And that means higher interest rates for future purchases or missed job opportunities. Some employers check credit scores as part of the hiring process.

For the working poor in America sometimes it seems you can’t win for losing. But Stephens isn’t going down without a fight. She plans to voice her concerns at the New Jersey state legislature.

Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist living in the DFW metroplex. For questions, comments and speaking inquiries email her at info@SteffanieRivers.com

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