Story Bank: Jim, East Millinocket

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Jim, 64, East Millinocket

Jim worked at the Great Northern Paper Company from 1971 until the mill closed in 2014.

After he was laid off and his employment insurance ran out, his income was reduced to $166 a month. He could not qualify for MaineCare, and he could not afford private insurance. He has been uninsured for four years.

While working in the mill, Jim experienced a heart attack and has been living with cardiac challenges ever since. At the time, a majority of Jim's medical bills were covered through his employer's health insurance program.

Whenever Jim experiences chest pains, he takes his nitroglycerine medication. On one occasion, he took his medication, but his symptoms did not subside. He knew his medication had expired. After a dosage of nitroglycerine and four cardiac tests were performed at his local hospital, he was left with a $14,000 bill.  Now, he is learning to navigate the health care system without the help of his employer and without access to MaineCare.

In addition to his heart challenges, Jim is living with diabetes. He recently obtained some health care coverage through Veterans Affairs, where he receives his medication, aside from his insulin. While there is a copayment associated with his medication, the cost of his medical equipment, including his needles and glucose monitor, come out of his own pocket. The needles are often too expensive, and Jim is forced to reuse them.

Jim is only one year away from qualifying for Medicare but his wife, Melissa, must wait five more years. Luckily, when MaineCare is expanded in July, Jim and Melissa will be able to access the health care they need. However, it is impossible to know if any medical challenges will further impact their health in the meantime.