You don’t know what it’s like until it’s your life.
Clara Sanders-Stevens works hard every day, directing the Project 21 after-school program for the Oak Park School District. But, because she’s an independent contractor, she’s responsible for her own health insurance. And she just can’t afford it.
I don’t need help with food or rent, but I need health insurance — especially in the event I have to go to the emergency room or I’m hospitalized. But when you start talking about $400 or $500 a month for insurance, it’s just not going to happen for a lot of people like me.
This is why Sanders-Stevens is a staunch advocate for Medicaid expansion in Michigan. She sees the realities of families living without health insurance every day. Kids coming to school sick because their parents can’t afford the cost of a doctor’s appointment or staying home from work and not getting paid. The same is true for a lot of other self-employed people she knows, or people who don’t get insurance through their work.
Those of us out here working, we’re trying to make good things happen. If people get sick they can’t go to work. And if we’re not healthy, there are no business owners to create new opportunities.
It’s especially frustrating to see this happening to Sanders-Stevens and others like her, who are dedicated to public service. As she explains, for many of them the choice may come down to having to return to the corporate world just to get health insurance instead of doing the kind of ground work that can make a real difference to communities.
Sanders-Stevens considers herself relatively lucky because she can usually afford to pay for routine check-ups. Having had health insurance in the past, she knows what a difference preventive care can make.
My health wouldn’t be what it is today if I hadn’t had all those regular physicals back when I had insurance. When you don’t have health insurance, it’s easy to let things go too far and wind up with something that could have been prevented.
Working with so many families who don’t have health insurance, Sanders-Stevens has seen what happens when people are hospitalized. She says they don’t always get the same care that people with insurance do or they’re released from the hospital sooner than they should be.
Then there’s the cost, she says.
You wind up with $20,000 in medical bills and they come after you for that immediately. They don’t let you work it out, or they want you to make payments of $700 or $800 a month. If people could afford that, they’d have health insurance.
Sanders-Stevens worries about what would happen if she were ever hospitalized. When they take the kids in her program skating, she doesn’t participate for fear of falling and getting hurt. In fact, she says she prays if she’s ever injured that she’s in her car at the time because her car insurance is the only medical coverage she has.
She plans to contact her representatives and urge them to support Medicaid expansion in Michigan. And what does Sanders-Stevens plan to say?
They don’t see how important it is until it happens to them or someone in their family. Our legislators have insurance. I’d never wish harm on anyone, but it just doesn’t hit home until it affects you directly. I see it every day and I can tell you that having health insurance would give so many of us peace of mind we don’t have now, knowing we can be cared for and stay healthy.
Contact your legislators today and tell them to say YES to Medicaid expansion.