What it’s like to go without health insurance, with feedback

Health care column

My column today is about what it’s like for some Wisconsinites to live without health insurance coverage:

Nine years ago, when Jasmin Voelz was 20, she woke up screaming, pain like a knife in her gut. She lay on the floor in her apartment, crying, for eight hours before her friends forced her to go to the doctor.

She hadn’t wanted to go. She had no insurance and feared the cost of medical bills.

It was appendicitis. In an interview last week, Voelz, who lives in Wausau, said her friends got her to the emergency room “just in time” — because acute, untreated appendicitis kills people. It happens all the time.

All told, Voelz’s medical bills came to about $20,000. She was working at the time and has been employed steadily since then, but her jobs — bartending, working the night desk at a hospital — tend not to provide insurance. She doesn’t have family support. She’s still paying off the debt she incurred for no reason except that her appendix, a useless internal organ, decided it was time to burst.

Voelz is No. 25,566 on the state’s BadgerCare waiting list.

Read the whole thing here.

There was an interesting discussion in comments on the column. Read the full thread if you’re interested, but I will highlight a few here:

William Meyer: I still remember the pain of my appendix rupture, though it happened about 35 years ago. Each of these individuals has my sympathy for their conditions. But each of those three made a decision not buy insurance, and instead spent their money on other things. In my opinion, health insurance should be a higher priority purchase than smart phone plans, cable TV, new vehicles, and a host of other things. … Under Walker’s plan, those who truly cannot afford it will be covered by Badgercare; those who can afford it but would rather buy other things will have to reconsider their priorities.

John Enk: Did they decide not to buy insurance or was that decided for them because of their income or situation at the time?

Quint Canard: And you know these three have new vehicles and cable TV how? Under “Walker’s plan,” an individual making $12,000 will purchase insurance in a health exchange that wasn’t designed to meet their needs. They’ll face a $2,000 deductible, and up to $6,200 in out-of-pocket costs. Is that coverage?

I posted a couple responses myself in the comments. Good conversation.

About Robert Mentzer

I am the opinion editor at Daily Herald Media.
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