One Story of Many - Kathy's Story

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How Kathy – A mother, grandmother and self-employed hair dresser – talks about the importance of affordable health coverage.

Kathy Phelps lives in central Maine. Kathy testified at a legislative hearing about the importance of accepting federal health care funds to expand access to affordable health coverage through Medicaid (MaineCare).  

Why did you want to come to Augusta to talk about health care?

I’m a grandmother and a mother.  I’m also what some call a “non-categorical,” meaning I’m an adult with no dependent children living in my home.  I came to Augusta to testify in support of proposed bills that would have expanded access to health coverage for people with limited income in Maine. 

I worked my whole life since I was 14 years old.  I don’t expect something for nothing.  For 30 years, I have earned a modest living as a self-employed hair dresser.  My needs are simple so that I can live within my means.  But I can’t afford the high cost of health insurance or health care on my own.  At 59 years old, I still have 6 years to go before I qualify for Medicare. 

Did you have health coverage in the past?

In January 2014, I lost my health care coverage through Medicaid.  I lost it because of budget cuts and because our state refused to accept the federal funds.  Those funds would pay most of the cost of providing health care to people like me.

How has losing health coverage changed your life?

Since losing health coverage I have been going without oxygen I need medically.  The cost of the oxygen is $100 a month.  I have emphysema and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).  I’m feeling it. I’m sluggish. I’m tired.  I have a hard time breathing.  I have inhalers, but it’s not enough. It is terrifying to be up at night not able to breathe, but I can’t afford the $100 a month.  I have been able to get help with my medication for my osteoporosis and high cholesterol through Care Partners.  Nobody can help me with the oxygen.  I pay $12 for my prescription for osteoporosis.  If you don’t have wiggle room in your budget, even $12 makes things very tight.  What more can I cut back?  Doctor visits come out of my pocket.  I’m petrified what will happen if I need other health care or end up in the hospital.

Despite my serious health problems, I work 40 hours a week but without medications and doctor visits, I’m not sure how long that will last.  I have no one else to turn to.

What advice do you have that could help you and others who can’t afford health coverage?

Please encourage policy makers to vote to expand access to health care coverage to include people like me and the tens of thousands of other Maine people who are likely to suffer so much without basic health care.