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    17 Times People Delayed Medical Care That Never Would Have Happened If We Had Universal Healthcare

    "I was more worried about how I was going to pay for a hospital visit than the fact that my body was crying out for help."

    Experiencing a medical issue can be really stressful, but for many Americans, the costs of care are even more daunting. An American Heart Association survey in 2020 found that 49% of adults had avoided seeking medical care because they were worried about unexpected costs.

    Young mother checking her child's temperature

    We asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share how putting off necessary medical care because of money has affected them. Here are their stories:

    1. "I'm putting off care right now. My family has a history of Crohn’s disease that ranges from mild to cancer to painful death. I’ve been dealing with progressively worse symptoms for years and I can’t afford to go back to the ER again after being taken for passing out from pain and 'mystery stomach pain.'"

    Person looking worried while reading something on their phone

    2. "I have asthma. My health insurance makes it so doctor visits are affordable, but many prescriptions are not. Under my policy, I can afford my rescue inhaler, but not the small dose of daily inhaled steroids that my doctor wants me on for maintenance."

    "It’s $165 per month (with insurance) for the dosage that my doctor wants me to take, and I absolutely cannot afford it. So, I take a half dose every other day instead of a full dose every day to conserve it and make it stretch. I’m alive, and it does help my condition marginally, but it would be much more effective if I could afford to take my meds as prescribed. 

    This medication, which is so vital for my quality of life, simply is not available at a reasonable cost, and nobody — not the doctor, not the insurance company, and not the pharmacist — gives a shit."


    3. "I waited for wisdom teeth removal until I could afford the deductible. Well, the joke was on me. By the time I had that money, I had lost my dental insurance. I couldn't put it off at that point and ended up in debt for thousands."


    4. "This is such an important topic to me because I’m a Dreamer (in the US and eligible to work via Daca). I don’t qualify for state health insurance as I’m not a US citizen, therefore I rely on work-sponsored health insurance."

    People demonstrating in support of DACA recipients staying in America

    5. "I once got stuck on an elevator that was emitting a lot of smoke and I’m pretty sure I had some mild smoke inhalation. I refused to go to the hospital and pay what probably would be thousands of dollars for most likely just supportive care. Ended up being constantly short of breath and gave in and got an inhaler months later. It took a year or two before I was 100% back to normal."


    6. "I was diagnosed with hearing loss at age 10. The ENT I saw at the time told my mom that getting me hearing aids wouldn't be worth the money unless my grades dropped."

    "My grades didn't slip until I hit the really hard classes later on and my grades were still high compared to average, so we all assumed it was just, you know, hard classes. I struggled more and more socially and withdrew because it was so hard to carry on conversations, especially in loud areas like the bus and the cafeteria. My breaking point came when I was 21. I had already started TEACHING, and I was eating lunch at a restaurant with my parents during spring break. I broke down in tears because it was so hard to understand what my dad was saying. I finally got my hearing aids 11 years and two months after the initial diagnosis. If hearing aids were, idk, COVERED BY INSURANCE that whole mess could have been avoided. I'm 25 now and I actually have real friends and a social life, and I can't imagine teaching without them!"


    7. "I own my own business and I can't afford medical care. I haven’t been to the dentist in 18 years. I just updated my glasses this year after 10 years because my vision at night was so bad I almost got in a car accident. I’m thankful I rarely get sick. I’ve had a few minor things pop up over the last 15 years and I’ve been able to pay out of pocket but I dread when anything big happens. I’m 36."

    Woman getting her eyes examined

    8. "I have had chronic eczema since birth. Most people don’t understand how it ravages the entire surface area of my skin. At this point, I’ve taken so many steroids for it that my skin has thinned to the point of bleeding every time I scratch."

    "I desperately need to see a dermatologist and allergist to find an alternate solution, but I can’t even afford the initial consultation. All I can afford is one dose of steroids a year, and I know they’re ultimately making me worse. But I’m not in a position to be able to afford one, let alone multiple, visits to different specialists as they try different means to treat my symptoms. This is a chronic condition, meaning I’ll have it for life. If it’s this bad in my 20s, imagine how I’ll be when I’m 40, 50, or 60 if I’m forced to continue down this road."


    9. "We have a baby that's eight months old. She has soaked up all of our savings just paying for major surgery and months of recovery care so she could eat properly. 'Insurance' is nearly $700/month (more than our food expenses and utilities), and that 'insurance' only gets us a 'discount' AFTER paying several thousands in cash out of pocket."

    "And what are we putting off because of this? I have a serious shoulder injury from a work injury that's only gotten worse with time. I can barely raise my arm if I'm holding any weight. I have three crowns (that were all ~$1000 a piece to get) that have fallen out over the past three years that I can't afford to get replaced, and my remaining teeth have been ground down a couple of millimeters and destroyed, leaving me with wrecked jaw geometry, breathing interruption during sleep, nerve pain on my jaw, disfigured teeth, and head and neck pain. I'm told that this level of mouth damage would cost an estimated $20,000 to $60,000 to correct. 

    Instead I'm probably going to have to wait until the pain is so extreme that I can't eat and have all of my teeth pulled because it'll be cheaper than repairs. I'm only 44. Until our system stops allowing thousand percent cost markups that are opaquely paid by insurance companies without any motivation to reduce costs, things will only get worse. I'm terrified we will be bankrupted by what would once have been considered uneventful, standard expenses when I was young."


    10. "I couldn’t afford going to the dentist as a child and through college so when I was finally able to go and get things taken care of, several of my teeth were too destroyed to save. I’ve had to have five teeth pulled and a root canal because of it, which really added up in bills."

    Dentist showing x-rays to a patient

    11. "I was pruning a tree last year and got hit really hard in the knee with a huge branch. Over the next week the pain got so bad that I couldn't put any weight on the leg. I bought a crutch, wrapped my leg in bandages, and popped a lot of ibuprofen until I could eventually walk again three weeks later."

    "I didn't want to spend money on the doctor's visit and the x-rays they would have ordered. It would have come out to over $500. I have health insurance but with my deductible I'd have to pay for everything out of pocket. I'm not about to do that just to be told to go home and ice my knee."


    12. "I had been seeing a counselor sometimes once per week for PTSD, anxiety, and depression. I had to cut it back to once per month because of my extremely high deductible. After receiving a bill for $511, I had to stop all together."

    "Mental healthcare is such an important service and luckily I'm fairly stable. I don't even want to think about what could happen if I weren't."


    13. "In mid January 2020, I started having issues going to the bathroom and the only thing that would come out was liquid. I went to urgent care right before they closed and they said I needed to go to the emergency room. I decided not to because I didn’t have insurance and I was afraid of how much it would cost."

    Woman laying in a hospital bed

    14. "I fractured my wrist boxing. I felt a distinct crack when I threw a bad punch, but figured it was just a strain. It took three months and a trainer telling me to get it checked out before I finally went in, because I had to save up money first. After paying $400 for the appointment fee and X-ray, I found out it had fractured, healed, then re-fractured."

    "They told me surgery was likely needed but it would take another $150 appointment plus $2000+ for additional scans BEFORE they could confirm if surgery was needed. This was all with insurance. I didn’t do anything else and just wore a brace for the next seven months. Four years later and it’s finally stopped hurting. I now live in a country where if I'm injured and in pain, I don’t have to think about if I can afford going to the doctor and healing."


    15. "I had an infected tooth. I went to the dentist and she said that I need to get a root canal. She sent me to an endodontist who charged me $500 (that I didn't have) to tell me that I didn't need a root canal. I was out of money."

    "Within two weeks, the right side of my face swelled up. It looked like I had two heads. The pain was horrific! I went back to the initial dentist and she said that she needed to send me to an oral surgeon. I had to wait until the first of the year because I had used up my $1000 dental insurance that I am allotted. I was in pain for months!!"


    16. "I threw out my back during quarantine, and the pain was so bad that I thought I needed to go to the hospital. I wouldn’t have been able to sit up in a car, so I would have needed an ambulance."

    Ambulance parked outside the emergency room at a hospital

    17. Finally, "My mom wouldn’t go see a doctor because she didn’t want to 'waste' the money. She finally went to an urgent care after being in bad shape for a few months, where they misdiagnosed her. Twice."

    "When she wasn’t getting better on the antibiotics they prescribed her, she went to the ER where they found a basketball sized tumor in her uterus. She died less than six weeks later. If she hadn’t feared the expense, we would have been able to catch it in time to remove it when she started having symptoms a year ago. Now I’m still paying thousands in medical bills but my kids won’t know their Nana."


    Can you relate to these stories? Share your experiences in the comments below.

    And for more stories about life and money, check out the rest of our personal finance posts