Uninsured with Psoriasis

Last updated: January 2019

Ever have a bad situation that turns worse? Last month I lost my job unexpectedly. I had been working at my former company for over a year, but suddenly, they decided I wasn’t meeting expectations. Coincidentally, I was let go on the same day open enrollment started for health insurance. It was only a few days into the month, so I assumed my benefits would continue until at least the middle or end of the month. I called the HR department only to have another surprise waiting: my insurance ended at midnight the day before.

I’m still navigating this whole ordeal, so I don’t have all the answers. However, I wanted to share my experience so far. Hopefully, for others that are or have experienced this same horrible predicament, this can spur some good conversation about the reality of living with chronic disease(s) without insurance.

Processing the shock of being uninsured and unemployed

I sat there stunned. Not only had I just lost my job right before the holidays, but I was now without insurance during the time of year that my asthma and psoriasis team up to give me a super flare. I had needed to get a refill on my prescriptions, but I had procrastinated on calling them in, because I wrongly expected I would have my health insurance for the foreseeable future. If I hadn’t been already in a flare, it would have been triggered at the heap of stress that was thrust in my lap.

I spent a good part of the first week just sitting in self-pity. I told myself I would use this time to strengthen my relationship with my wife and kids and work on myself, but the truth was that I didn’t have the emotional capacity for much of anything. I felt like such a loser.

Aftershocks and the impact of having no insurance

In the midst of processing all of this, I started inevitably having breathing trouble and severe fatigue. My mind started racing. My family already had a financial burden from the loss of my income, but needing medical attention was only going to make it worse. My wife and I started calling offices to see if we could get a prescription just for some asthma medicine, but because of my symptoms, they insisted I be seen. We knew an office visit, let alone an ER visit, would be too hefty of a cost at this time, so we waited. Optimistically we thought it might get better with time and rest. Boy, were we wrong.

My breathing not only got worse, but I started to feel my lymph nodes grow and grow as the days went by. My chest was tight, and I couldn’t sleep because it was so difficult to take in oxygen. We made some calls and found a free clinic on the other (sketchy) side of town. I went and waited for nearly 2 hours with homeless residents of Portland to see a doctor. It was a humbling experience. Once I was seen, the news was worse than I thought. I had strep on top of an asthma attack. They treated the asthma first with a potent steroid and sent me home with an RX for an inhaler and antibiotics.

Trying to rebuild and take steps forward

For those of you that don’t know, strep and steroids are psoriasis nemeses. We scraped enough to cover the cost of the prescriptions and get me feeling healthy again. My psoriasis undoubtedly is flaring more than I have seen in over a year, but unfortunately, I have to put it on the back burner for the time being. I tried to get into a clinical trial for my psoriasis, but I wasn’t eligible. It seems like that is the way it is sometimes. Psoriasis isn’t immediately lethal, so it takes a back seat when push comes to shove.

I was really worried about finding a new job, especially with new lesions popping up every day, but thankfully I found a job as a custodian at a local church. It isn’t glamorous, and unfortunately doesn’t have health insurance to start, but it is a step towards getting back to where I need to be. If any of this resonates with you, I just want to leave you with this: don’t give up. It may take a while and get worse before it gets better, but you are worth the fight.

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