And the Health First Authority formed 15 months ago to seek solutions to the health care crisis in the state—heard many of those health care stories Thursday night at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
Ted Hughes of Windsor told the authority that 10 months ago he walked into a clinic and was immediately taken to the hospital where he spent the next seven days going in and out of a diabetic coma. When he walked out he had a $15,000 bill. His medicine costs $475 a month and he’s paying for all of it out of his pocket. “It got to the point where I couldn’t pay it anymore,” Hughes said.
Hughes is not alone.
Jody Trestman, who lives in Bristol, said one month after downgrading her family’s health insurance coverage because she couldn’t afford the 9 percent increase, she was diagnosed with severe Crohn’s disease. She said by downgrading her insurance from a PPO to an HMO she should have saved $2,000 a year, however her medical debt is now $6,000 and climbing due to the reduction in benefits and higher deductibles.
Jennifer Jaff, executive director of Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illness, said she’s had Crohn’s disease for 33 years. She said she was treated by doctors at Hartford Hospital for many years until her disease got so out of control her kidney’s started shutting down.
“That was when my doctor quit on me,” she said. “Just stopped responding to me, got nasty when he did, told me I had to keep emotion out of my relationships with medical professionals.”
“I was dying and he didn’t want me to be emotional,” Jaffe said. She said she now sees a network of doctors in New York.
Julie Ann Byron told the authority that her husband, 44, has juvenile diabetes. She said he requires extensive medical care just to stay alive. She said the family has health insurance through her husband’s company and this summer he was laid-off for two days, then rehired.
During that two-day period the family worried about what would happen if they lost their health insurance. She said the family spoke with their accountant who was able to figure out that with the cost of the husband’s medical supplies and other monthly costs like the mortgage, the family would lose everything they had worked for their entire life in just two years.
Luckily, her husband was rehired, “we feel very blessed,” she said. However, the family was forced to make some hard decisions. She said she had to give up her small business and go back to the corporate world so the family would have a health care choice in the future, should their employment picture change.
Byron is not unlike many families in the state. “It is imperative the state step in and provide a real safety net for us,” she told the authority.
Shana Moynihan, a 21-year-old student at Central Connecticut State University, said while she considers herself lucky to have insurance, she is underinsured.
Diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety disorder she was prescribed Adderall for the ADHD and Risperdal for the anxiety. In July when she went to fill her prescription the bill was in excess of $400 because she had reached her insurance plan’s $2,000 pharmacy benefit limit. She said filling both prescriptions would max out her insurance coverage in just six months.
She said she was forced to make a choice between paying over $400 a month for medication or paying for her college education. “Obviously I chose my education, however without the old combination of medication that I was on my performance in school has suffered,” Moynihan told the authority.
Tom Swan, co-chairman of the Health First Authority, said that Thursday was the eighth public hearing the group has held. At each one of the hearings, he said “there’s consistently been a demand for reform.”
The authority will hold two more public hearings. The next one will be held 6:30 p.m. tonight at Manchester Community College and another will be held 6:30 p.m. at Danbury Town Hall Monday, Oct. 6.