One family’s struggle for health insurance

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Giovanna Olea in the community center in Shadowwood community on Thursday, April 17, 2014. photo by Darrell Hoemann/The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

By Giovanna Olea/For — Giovanna Olea works for as a community ambassador in a computer lab at Shadow Wood Mobile Home Park. has opened and operated a computer lab within the park for the community since 2011. Olea writes about her experiences here.

My mother, Rosa Olea, and I had a long conversation about health insurance and payment methods.

My father had an accident at his last job and has been disabled ever since. He used to receive payments of $900 a month, but because the economy is poor, his payments were reduced to $700. For a family that is paying bills, mortgage on a house, and now medical insurance, the decrease in disability benefits is very alarming.

My older brothers used to help my parents, but now they are forming their own families and have their own expenses and responsibilities.

Both of my parents have Type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, the people that are disabled receive free health insurance. My father gets free medical checkups and has to pay a certain percentage of his medicine costs. For other people who may be in need, this is not always the case.

My mother recently applied for Medicare, but she was not accepted. She always tries to talk to her social worker, but unfortunately she never does. “I always try to explain my social worker about my case, but she never listens to me,” my mother said.

My mother does not know how to speak English, and that makes it harder for her to see a different social worker.

Now everyone is required to have health insurance, but how can a person who does not work and does not have money left after paying bills afford to buy health insurance?

I am really worried about all the people who are struggling with their bills and loans, because now they are also going to have to pay for health insurance.

There are many people dealing with health insurance. For instance, one woman who was in a car accident was waiting for the person who hit her to pay the hospital bills. She learned he did not pay when she received a letter from the hospital that her account was going to be sent to collection if she did not pay those bills.

She is very worried because the bill is more than $9,000, and she is only eligible for 25 percent of the Carle Community Care Discount program. Her insurance company told her it could not help her and that the rest was her responsibility. Now she does not know what to do. Hiring a lawyer to sue the person responsible for the accident is more expensive than actually paying the rest of bill.

She told me that she had to give up going to the doctor since her insurance does not cover much, and she has to pay for other stuff like food, bills and rent. She is one of many people that tried to apply for Medicare and was rejected. She also tried to reach her assigned social worker, but she also had no luck. “My income is so limited right now, that I do not even get the medication that I am supposed to take,” she said.

Just like my family, other families also have problems not only with medical care, but also with the people that are supposed to help them but do not listen to their needs.

In 2012, worked with faculty from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science to secure a grant from the state that offers skills training to help participants secure jobs. The money was used to place community ambassadors in public computer labs to offer computer literacy training and workshops to underserved populations from the Urbana Free LibrarySalt and Light Food Pantry and Shadow Wood Mobile Home Park as well as a public computer lab in East St. Louis. At the end of the grant, retained Olea to continue her work. 

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