Darrow Alexander, 57, of Chicago, started having pain in his pancreas, breathing problems and occasional chest pain. He wasn't sure what was going on and knew his options were limited because he was uninsured, but one day, he decided to go to Rush University Medical Center and inquire about his ailments.
While there, a staff member recommended he fill out an application for CountyCare, a Medicaid health plan that covers a variety of services including some vision and dental coverage. Darrow did so and was able to secure an appointment with a doctor. Soon, Darrow discovered that his pancreas pain was tied to diabetes and his breathing and chest struggles were related to anxiety.
"That's the importance of health care,” Darrow said. “I could have died out there. That's how high my sugars were, but I didn't know. I was sick and didn't even know it."
Darrow's not alone. In 2014, a study found that nearly 8 million Americans did not know they had diabetes. Though you can develop diabetes at any age, it most often occurs in middle-aged and older adults. Black Americans are also nearly twice as likely as white Americans to develop type 2 diabetes.
Still, many people lack access to the thing that could help them identify health issues like diabetes: health care. A study conducted in the first half of 2020 found about 40 million American adults lacked any form of health coverage, 30 million American adults were unable to maintain their health coverage for the entire year, and 70 million American adults who have insurance have insufficient coverage. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, these rates have not changed statistically since 2018, according to the study.
If you've found yourself without coverage this year and want to enroll for next year, you can enroll through the healthcare marketplace today up until Tuesday, Dec.15.
The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program offers people living with HIV in Illinois without employer-provided insurance, financial assistance to help you meet your monthly premiums. If you need assistance finding or enrolling in a plan or financial assistance, you can call AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC)'s Hotline, 312-784-9060, and a staff member will guide you through the process.
Since enrolling in health care, Darrow's been able to get his blood sugars under control and learn more about managing depression and anxiety. Beyond that, Darrow has learned so much that he often encourages neighbors to not only enroll, but understand just how helpful having insurance can be.
"I've learned so much about my health because I'm able to get taken care of," Darrow said. "I feel better. I'm not where I want to be yet, but I'm not where I used to be."
When asked what Darrow would say to someone on the fence about pursuing health care coverage, he said: "Don't procrastinate. It's real. It really helps you and it's helpful to know that someone has your back out there. CountyCare had mine."
The deadline for Open Enrollment is Dec. 15. You can enroll or change plans here. If you need help finding or enrolling in health insurance this year, call the AFC Insurance Hotline today to have a staff member walk you through the process: 312-784-9060.