Story Bank: Lester & Penny, Lincoln

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Lester & Penny, Lincoln

Lester was laid off from Great Northern Paper in East Millinocket in February 2014, before the company closed in June.

He collected unemployment benefits and soon gained seasonal employment with Murphy’s Lawn Care. When Lester lost his employer provided health insurance in March, he enrolled in a Marketplace health insurance plan.

His spouse, Penny, worked as a cashier at Hannaford. She was facing medical challenges and needed to have her gallbladder removed. During the surgery, her surgeon nicked her intestines which led to an infection and a three-week stay in the hospital.

Lester and Penny were making a combined $14,400 a year and were worried that health insurance would be far too costly for them.

Luckily, Lester and Penny qualified for a subsidy through the Marketplace. They were content with their $12.85 monthly premiums for their health insurance. In January 2015, their premiums increased to $30 a month. They still felt comfortable with the price, and continued their enrollment.

Soon, though, their Marketplace insurance plan became unaffordable, and they were forced to forego insurance.

Penny went back to work soon after, but continued to have infections and needed to stop working. Penny received Social Security and Disability Insurance and enrolled in MaineCare. Lester, though, was still uninsured.

They were making plans for an upcoming surgery for Penny when Lester began to feel ill. 

He was having severe stomach pain and had been losing weight for weeks. The pain was insufferable.

After running some tests, his doctor said it was likely a stomach virus and sent him home. Several weeks later, Lester boarded an emergency helicopter and was flown to Bangor, and then Lewiston. 

Lester died on the operating table in Lewiston from two clogged arteries that feed blood into his digestive system.

Penny was told that not even a colostomy would have saved him. He passed away on August 16, 2017 at the age of 56. If Lester had health insurance, he might still be alive today.