The face of the uninsured

With a stack of medical bills, Tracey J. is contemplating how she can have access to healthcare without insurance.


ST. PETERSBURG – The dire condition and impending doom of the Affordable Health Care Act is blasted on every television channel and social media outlet.  There is an outcry from the public of moral obligation, injustice, prejudicial treatment and both sides of the debate sees political division.

But my issue is more personal.  My issue is my daughter, Tracey J., who has been diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening illness and who was dismissed from the emergency room and left to navigate the murky waters of obtaining medical assistance on her own.

This is a chronicle of our journey.  This is a personal record of our experience of being in the whirlwind of shrinking medical health options. This is a battle for my daughter’s life.

It started with a call from Tracey on June 1. She informed me that she was in the emergency room at Bayfront suffering from excruciating pains in her stomach.  She insisted that I not come down and sit for hours.

Uninsured, featuredAfter two hours passed and numerous follow-up phone calls, my motherly instinct pulled me to come to her side.  A bond that has pulled me to her since I felt the first kick in my womb, a bond that only strengthens more in times of trouble.

I arrived at the hospital around 9 p.m. and was confident that it was an ulcer, gallstones or urinary tract infection. But the diagnosis turned out to be more grave.

They had performed lab tests and a CT scan and we were waiting for the diagnosis. I was there when the mobile insurance cart was wheeled in and due to my daughter’s responses regarding medical insurance and financial obligation, it dictated her level of care and where it would be provided.

After what seemed an undeterminable amount of hours, the doctor delivered the results within the privacy of thin curtains. She was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst with an underlying unknown mass that could be cancer.

My heart sank as dark fear and terror captured my mind.  She recommended that Tracey follows up with one of the local clinics, but she was not directed to a specific one.

We left in the dark of night.  I knew it was a bad situation but had put on my “mom shield.”  My pup was in danger and I was ready for battle.  I did not realize how steep and ever eroding the system of health insurance was for the disadvantaged.

My daughter is not a statistic to me and now she stood as an actual face of the uninsured.

Recently laid off by one of the area’s major corporations, Tracey has the heart of a fierce contender along with some of my traits. She can be combative at a moment’s notice with street swagger to boot. Then instantly change and become that middle-class raised woman who was taken regularly to Broadway plays and visits to New York museums as a child.

On June 5, her first stop was to the Pinellas County Human Services on First Avenue North.  They offer valuable but limited programs to the community including dental services, family housing assistance programs, emergency financial assistance and healthcare for the homeless.

Since my daughter had recently secured her own residence the week before the pain, but still lived with me, she was technically homeless. After several hours she was rewarded with a “Blue Card” that enrolled her into Pinellas County Health program.

Since her layoff, Tracey has been doing sporadic telemarketing jobs that offer no benefits.  Her only two options was a mobile health unit or Bayside Health Clinic on 49th Street North.

Almost a week had passed from the initial diagnosis and she was in excruciating pain with no prescribed pain medication. She chose Bayside Health Clinic and we continued to push forward.

To be continued…

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