What It’s Like Living Without Health Insurance in America
Last week, Bloomberg News told the story of three families without health insurance. We also asked readers to share their own stories as we spend the next year following people who are “risking it.”
The response was overwhelming. More than 3,000 people from across the U.S. filled out our questionnaire and shared their challenges, and how their decisions have affected their health and financial well-being.
Some can’t afford to insure their children. Others are seeking cheaper care abroad. Some older adults are counting down the years until they qualify for Medicare.
While these people are among the 27 million Americans who remain uncovered despite the large expansion of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, their stories transcend politics, reflecting tough kitchen-table decisions about health care faced by many families.
We Want to Hear Your Insurance Story:
Bloomberg News wants to hear about being uninsured in America in 2018 and what it means to you.
Please click here to tell us your story.
Whitney Whitman waited until her 7-year-old daughter had been sick for almost two weeks before taking her to the pediatrician for a visit that ended up costing $275. Her family of four in Bird Creek, Alaska, outside Anchorage, last had insurance in 2016.
When she looked for coverage last fall, the cheapest plan Whitman could find was $1,734 per month, with a deductible of $10,500 for the family. She splits her time between mental health counseling and mediating legal disputes, such as divorces. She made about $110,000 before taxes in 2016.
But student loans, mortgages on a home and a rental property, car payments and credit cards squeeze their budget — and health insurance is what got squeezed out.
She said her husband Jason probably broke his finger last year working on their house. “We just taped it up and kept going.”
They’ve done a lot of that. Jason’s knee injury and concussion also went untreated. Whitman would like to get an inhaler to alleviate seasonal asthma in the spring but says she’ll probably skip that, too. She’s thought about moving to Canada, which has universal health coverage, and has looked at jobs across the border.
“We’re part of the population that’s healthy and isn’t paying into the system,” Whitman said. It’s a tradeoff she’s not entirely comfortable with, especially when her kids go skiing at the nearby Alyeska Resort, where her husband worked until recently.
“Every time my children do something remotely fun and risky, I’m envisioning in my head the horrible medical problems” that might ensue, she said. They wear helmets on the slopes, at least.