My Story: "For 7 Years, I've Had No Health Insurance"

An application for health insurance, a stethoscope and some pillsFreelance writer Nida Khan, who is asthmatic, is the first to admit that, despite the fact that she’s been without health insurance for 7 years, she’s been extremely lucky.

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“Even though I’ve had my share of annoying health issues to deal with, including difficulties buying my inhalers, there are so many other much-more-horrible stories out there of people suffering needlessly, and dying, just because they didn’t have coverage.”

Nida’s story is one that the 48 million uninsured people in this country can immediately identify with. A study conducted at the Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance (released in 2009) found that nearly 45,000 deaths a year are associated with lack of health insurance. According to its data, uninsured working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than those who are insured.

“My last full-time job was in 2006. And, subsequently, that was the last time I enjoyed health benefits. The past seven years have been a mixed bag of prayers to not get sick, to waiting to see a doctor until it’s absolutely and utterly necessary. Forced to freelance out of necessity because of a lack of work, I remember how tough it was. I only go to the doctor when I’m tired of self-diagnosing and cold medicine simply will not suffice. These past seven years have been a combination of uncertainty and gambling with my own health. I recall the frustration of not being able to go to a doctor that knew my history, and that could really dedicate time to diagnosing what was wrong. And I remember the embarrassment of finally accepting charity care as a last resort when things reached a tipping point during this time period several years ago.”

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine conducted a study of preventable deaths in 19 industrialized nations and found that the U.S. came in last place. Released in 2008, the ‘Measuring the Health of Nations’ report focused on deaths before the age of 75 that are potentially preventable with proper and timely health care. And let me repeat, we came in last place.