When I was younger, healthcare was not an issue for me. I would go to the doctor when needed and I would feel better afterwards. If I had a cold, hurt my knee, or had an infection, off to the doctor I would go. Medi-Cal was a huge relief to me and never seemed to interfere with finances when I was underage. As a foster youth, if the government didn’t help me, then who would?
I was in and out of foster care, and medical insurance was a bumpy road whenever I did reside with my mother. I became a ward of the court fully at age 15. I received full Medi-Cal and was able to get care when needed without the major stress of a medical bill. Working at a pizza store part time and going to school would not have been an ideal situation for not having health coverage, especially whenever a huge medical expense came rocketing my way.
I aged out of foster care at around age 20. I was pregnant at the time and everything came crashing down. I had to go back and forth to reestablish my Medi-Cal insurance, and I was able to receive it. On my due date, my Medi-Cal insurance was no longer effective and I had to run back and forth again to fix it at nine months pregnant. It created stress and had me emotionally drained just thinking of when and how I will ever be able to pay these bills.
After my son was born, I was close to the income cut-off for Medi-Cal eligibility. Constantly fighting back and forth for medical insurance just to stay healthy was a huge struggle because of the income guidelines. Yes, I had income, of course – I needed to survive. But was I struggling enough to qualify for medical insurance? Not quite. I worked full time at that time, making eight dollars an hour and I was considered “not eligible” because my income was too high. This was hard for me to comprehend under the circumstances that I was in, it was difficult to understand that while barely making it, I was making too much. As a former foster youth, not even being a year out of care it hit me so hard. I have knee problems, I needed checkups, I have other medical issues that needed to be attended to and they all needed to wait simply because I could not afford medical expenses. Healthcare is a huge aspect of my life now; now that it’s all on me it’s difficult. I have done everything I can to sign up, missing work, and going back and forth only be told that my son and I are denied.
There was one particularly difficult experience that happened because I couldn’t get coverage. I was uninsured. I got sick suddenly and came down with a bad cold and strep throat. I could not even move my neck and could hardly swallow. At that time I had started work at my current position, working for a busy company at the reception desk. I tried to not be too noticeable. After work I cried all night because the headache and the weakness had just gotten too bad. I still came into work the next day- I could not miss work because my budget would then be thrown off. Other employees were sick so it became a small concern in the office. I avoided the comments from co-workers, such as “you should go to the doctor,” and “maybe you should go home and rest.” I knew how much I would have to pay at the time and I had $100 dollars to my name and was low on gas. I couldn’t go home; I wasn’t able to go to the doctor. I knew my boss was getting concerned so I finally left for home and figured out how I would be able to show up to work with a doctor’s note the next day. I saw the doctor, borrowed some money and eventually got the antibiotics I needed. I was relieved, but if I had medical insurance that unnecessary stress would simply not have not been there.
It then hit me that something should be done. As a former foster youth I fought to be as independent as I can. All I wanted was to be seen as an adult and independent, which made me sometimes come across as stubborn or difficult to help. However, a financial struggle is very hard to fight alone when you don’t have a stable home. Even when my income was stable it was never enough. I have paid for primary care visits and visits for my son costing $80 dollars or more, not including the cost of any tests. After a couple of these visits it becomes a huge burden financially.
My boyfriend and I work very hard and both of us hold full time jobs just to live. Health care has been a huge issue and concern for me this past year. Hearing about this new healthcare policy that will help me as a young adult just finding her way put warmth in my heart. Because I have been battling for healthcare coverage back and forth for so long, it’s a relief that all the fight was for something that will now help me. I also feel that I am not alone in this fight, those of us who care and know how it is will understand the high importance of healthcare.
This is just a small picture of my struggle and I am sure there are other youth out there who might have bigger issues. As a former foster youth, a young mother, and a full time employee, I hope this battle for me and others gets a little easier now that former foster youth will be covered by Medi-Cal.