Struggling to get to the bottom of my health issues… Without insurance!

By Wellington H., Columbia County

I am originally from Peru, but I have been living in Florida for the past 20 years. A while ago– around 10 years ago or maybe even more– I was enrolled in health insurance through Blue Cross Blue Shield. I ended up canceling it because the copays I had to pay were just too high. I was working at a farm at the time and my employer didn’t pay for any percentage of the insurance costs, so it just made sense for me to cancel it. At the time, I preferred simply going to the doctor and paying for the cost of the visit. However, I found out over time that when health problems are more serious, they are not able to be checked and resolved in just one visit. Rather, they require multiple visits and follow-up procedures, such as X-rays and MRIs. When that is the case, the process naturally becomes more expensive. I’m 50 years old now and I’m aware that health problems show up more and more as people get older. I’d really like to explore the possibility of enrolling in health insurance again for these reasons.


Specifically, I’ve been experiencing some health issues for a while that I’m trying to get to the root of. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was experiencing symptoms that I thought were allergy-related. I’ve actually experienced issues with allergies for most of my life. However, for the past two years, I’ve had a bad cough that just won’t go away. Because having a cough during the pandemic is concerning, I’ve made sure that my symptoms are not being caused by COVID-19. Thinking that environmental factors were possibly causing my cough, I’ve changed jobs many times to make sure that I am not exposed to pollution. However, my cough has continued no matter the setting. I currently work in electric cable installation and my co-workers and I use a mask covering due to the dust that is typically around at our job sites. Nonetheless, my co-workers haven’t really experienced the coughing symptoms that I have.


My persistent cough has been affecting many aspects of my life, including when I’m eating, talking, and sleeping. It has even affected my energy levels at work, so I realized it was something I needed to attend to sooner than later. To try to address the issue, I’ve visited a doctor in a nearby town. When my cough has gotten really bad, she has prescribed antibiotics for me to take. These antibiotics have been helpful in reducing my symptoms temporarily, but my cough has returned after a couple of months each time. This indicates to me that the problem is different from what has been suspected so far, so I know that I’m going to need to examine these issues more deeply.


I realize that I should have tried treating my symptoms a while ago, but not having health insurance was the main obstacle in the way. I’ve just been dealing with the pain. I know that some health issues are easy to treat, but I also know of people who have been diagnosed with more serious problems like lung cancer. When I learn of those cases, I think to myself that I should have tried addressing my symptoms a long time ago. Along the way, I have really started to value what it means to have health insurance. People shouldn’t have to be afraid of seeing the specialists they need to see, but the cost of services is what prevents people without insurance from doing so. I think my symptom tolerance has been functioning like a thermometer, and I reached a point where I couldn’t tolerate the symptoms anymore. Thankfully, friends told me about the Equal Access Clinic, so I decided to ask for help there.


Accessing dental services has been another obstacle for me. Since I don’t have dental insurance, I’ve had to pay out of pocket for services at a local dental provider’s office. The last time I went, I paid $400 for one filling. I need to eventually get some of my crowns and fillings checked, but this process might be very expensive, too.


Even if I were to get insurance to help me get to the bottom of my persistent coughing, I understand that some insurance plans cover more services than others. Years ago when I had insurance, I recall trying to set up an appointment with the pulmonology department at Shands Hospital, only to be told that my insurance wasn’t accepted there. Nevertheless, I hope I’m eventually able to find an affordable plan because having insurance coverage would be very helpful for me right now.