A few years ago I went looking for a doctor to give me a tetanus shot. What should have been easily achievable turned into a difficult task because I did not have health insurance.
The first clinic outright refused me because I had no insurance. I called the health clinic a few miles down the road and they told me that there was a six month waiting list for new patients without health care. The third clinic quoted me $170 for the office visit and exam required before they could administer any health care.
Luckily, a practitioner in the third clinic overheard my inquiry and informed me that I could get a free tetanus shot at the County Health Department. So I made an appointment with them and received the vaccine for free. No insurance required.
Things have changed since then. Through sheer force of will President Obama pushed the Affordable Health Care act into legislation and four years later, it’s come time to comply with the new law. Bob and I were leery of a law mandating that we pay for health insurance but he went ahead and explored our options and last month signed us up for Obamacare.
We chose a catastrophic policy. Basically, if we get hit by a car or find out we have cancer, we won’t lose our house. Depending on how much income we have at the end of the year, premiums may come entirely out of our tax liability. Our out of pocket costs will be co-pays equaling no more than $11,000 for the calendar year.
We noticed that the Moncure Community Health Center was listed as a first tier provider which meant lower co-pays if we went to the doctors there. I called the center and found that yes, they are accepting new patients as early as mid-February. All I had to do was come down and fill out some paperwork.
I arrived late in the day to a crowded clinic and stood in line for a few minutes until a woman called me over to her window. She listened to my request, asked for my drivers license and insurance card and quickly got to work typing my information into the computer.
I looked around the spacious clinic. A brightly colored banner proclaimed, “You qualify for Obamacare!” The room was alive with people, old and young, mothers, fathers and a bustling staff. I read a letter displayed on the counter from a physician who said she was shifting her practice to focus entirely on seniors aged 60 or older. “Why would anyone do that?” I wondered.
And then it hit me. The people who worked here really wanted to help. A feeling of relief washed over me and my eyes grew moist. I was about to qualify for medical care! Grateful and humbled, I watched the threat of medical bankruptcy recede.
A moment later I was handed a registration card and appointments for me and Bob on February 13th. “How much will this cost?” I asked. “$15” she said with a smile. I thanked her and turned away from her counter before new tears could reach my eyes, walked to the parking lot and drove the three minutes home.