The Cost of Being Uninsured

By Damaris Mose , MSN FNP-BC 

Is it a stroke? What to do? These were the panicked thoughts running through my mind as I woke up from a nap on the couch and could not feel the right side of my face. I tried pinching my cheek, totally numb! At that moment, I noticed my husband looking very concerned, I got up and ran to the closest mirror, I had a right facial droop. I could not help but let the worst thought take root, I am having a stroke!! My husband and I stared at each other in confusion for a mini second, unsure of what to do next. Then my husband took charge, bundled me and my 1-month old son into the car and off we went to the nearest ER.

Several tests, a couple of nurses and a few doctors later, I was diagnosed with bell’s palsy- a condition where the muscles on one side of your face becomes weak or paralyzed. Possibly caused by the multiple stressors that I had endured in the past couple of months: a 25hour journey from Australia, car accident, and most recently, 24 hours of labor. The next few days were a blur of pain, taping my eye shut at night, steroids, and more pain. However, lopsided face and all, I couldn’t help but be grateful that it was not a stroke, somehow, bell’s palsy seemed far less daunting.

During the next few days, we saw multiple doctors and I underwent several diagnostic tests. During this time, the cost of care was the least of our worries because a couple of months ago, when my husband and I landed in the USA, I had been approved for Medicaid. Therefore, knowing that I was insured, we were fully committed to ensuring I got the best possible care.

So, you can imagine our shock when a month later our mailbox was flooded with bills. The shock was compounded when a phone call to Medicaid offices confirmed my worst fear, my insurance had been cut off a few days before I went to seek care in the ER. I remember sitting up half the night, worrying about how we would pay all the bills while trying to focus on performing the facial exercises that I had been taught during my very short time at physical therapy. Luckily, we agreed on a payment plan and two years later, mailed our final check.

My experience made me appreciate the value of having medical insurance and just how easily medical bills could cause bankruptcy. America, the land of opportunity. The land that helped fulfill the dream of a young Kenyan girl who dreamt of being a nurse and is now about to complete her Doctorate in Nursing. I have come a long way, but I clearly remember the road that I had to walk to get where I am today and cannot but imagine how many were unable to rise from under the burden of their medical bills.

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