|The Faces of Health Now!
People all over the state are speaking out to demand passage of landmark legislation that will reduce smoking, expand health coverage to tens of thousands of uninsured, address racial and ethnic inequalities in sperm health care and stabilize health institutions in critical communities. Here’s what people are saying about “An Act Expanding Access to Health Care, Reducing Youth Smoking and the Use of Tobacco Products, and Improving the Public Health in the Commonwealth”:
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“Yesterday, I saw a 19-year-old boy who really scared me” Fana said. “His blood pressure was 150 over 100, and his pulse was 126. He didn’t have health insurance because he lost his MassHealth when he turned 19. With that kind of blood pressure and pulse I knew he should see a cardiologist but I can’t refer him anywhere because he doesn’t have health insurance.
He probably has something preventable and treatable, but how can he do it? He works part-time and all I could do was refer him to free care which doesn’t pay for specialists.”
Current MassHealth coverage for children ends when they turn 19. The Health Now! legislation will continue coverage for older adolescents like this boy until age 21.
Fana also sees many working adults with no coverage.“One lady is 42 and working at a restaurant for six dollars an hour,” Fana said. “About three months ago she had a lump on her right arm. She came to the van to have her blood pressure checked and we said, ‘you have a lump on your right arm.’ She said, ‘I know.’
“If one of my patients who is uninsured and needs a specialist like this woman, it’s a dead end. What I do, and I’m getting tired of doing it, is a lot of begging. I ask doctors I know if they will see this patient or that patient for free or not charge very much. It’s health care. People shouldn’t have to beg for it, but that’s all I can do for many of my patients.
“Another case that broke my heart was a guy who has been in this country legally for 28 years,” Fana continued. “All 28 years he has been working in a restaurant on Route 1 with no health insurance. He had untreated diabetes and high blood pressure for a long time. He’s 64 now and doesn’t qualify for Medicare, and doesn’t qualify for MassHealth because he’s working. The diabetes has affected his eyes and he’s almost blind. Cases like that are very difficult. I have tons of people like that. It breaks my heart.”
The Health Now! legislation will expand, for the first time, MassHealth coverage to workers without minor children up to 133 percent of poverty ($11,425 annual income for an individual). It also creates the AMSP for adults up to 300 percent of poverty ($25,770) who don’t qualify for MassHealth or other health programs.
The Health Now! legislation also funds more Community Health Workers like Fana, who are passionately committed to helping their fellow community members.