Story Bank: John & Suzanne, Springfield

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John Miller & Suzanne Belanger, Springfield 

John and Suzanne live in Springfield, 28 miles east of Lincoln and 50 miles south of Houlton. Given their health conditions, there are no opportunities to work or volunteer nearby.
 
Their only source of household income comes from John's Social Security benefits.
 
John is facing many health challenges, some of which include a spinal trauma and a double knee replacement. He suffers a great deal of pain each day.
 
Suzanne was homeless before living with John. She was food insecure, which contributed to her health challenges. 
 
In November 2010, she had her first heart attack at 40 years old.
 
In March 2011, she had additional stents--tubes that are inserted into passageways in the heart to keep them open--implanted. 
 
By June, she had another stent implanted, then again in October. 
 
Currently, Suzanne is suffering from fluid buildup and swelling in her limbs in addition to her heart challenges. She is not able to receive the medical care she needs. 
 
There are four medications she should be taking daily. One of her medications is $483 a month--over half of her and John's household income. She had to stop taking her beta blockers, blood thinners, and cholesterol medicine. She simply cannot afford them. 
 
In June 2017, Suzanne thought she was having another heart attack. In the ambulance ride to the hospital, she was sure to tell the Emergency Medical Technicians that she has Charity Care. She thought the ride and the testing and treatment she would soon receive would be covered. 
 
Much to Suzanne's shock, the ambulance ride was nearly $800. 
 
"I could have had John bring me for $20 if I knew it wasn't covered," said Suzanne. 
 
She received a bill for her X-rays as well. 
 
In her struggle to get treatment over the past four years, her medical debt has escalated.
 
Without health insurance, her cardiologist will not see her. She has been denied necessary testing and treatment because she cannot afford insurance. Her current primary care physician has been her only resource for medical care.
 
Her physician's office allows her to pay for medical care on a sliding fee scale and they are flexible with her appointment times, but Suzanne is often unable to afford gas for transportation to and from the office.
 
Her medications consume all disposable income. "They don't check to see how many people are on life-saving drugs," said Suzanne. "Even the pharmacist said, 'How many more people are they going to kill?'"
 
John and Suzanne want to be able to live without the fear of another heart attack while uninsured. They fear that she could sustain a debilitating illness or even pass away because she doesn't have health insurance.