By BETSY TAYLOR
For several years in her 20s and 30s, Baltimore resident Nzinga Rahim went without health insurance because she couldn't afford it. She was "pretty much" healthy, but she says that when she turned 30, "things started to go south."
She didn't have a primary care physician. On the occasions when she felt really poorly, she'd seek care at a hospital emergency room. In one visit she was diagnosed with a sinus infection. When Rahim developed a skin condition, she initially turned to the Internet to self-diagnose, and briefly thought perhaps she was allergic to sunshine.
Nzinga Rahim at work as a bus driver.
Rahim, now 36, got insured about three years ago through Maryland Health Connection, the state's health insurance marketplace created through provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
A high school graduate, she is single and describes herself as having a low income. She has had struggles finding work. She completed a pharmacy technician program, but says she wasn't able to get a job because she didn't have experience in a retail pharmacy.
She doesn't pay a premium or copays for her health insurance plan. However she has a new job working about 30 hours a week driving a bus with a wheelchair lift for an adult day care program, and her income bump may mean she'll be responsible for part of the premium for her subsidized insurance plan.
She said having health insurance has made "a world of difference" in her life. "More than anything, it's peace of mind." She has a primary care physician now, seeks preventive care and pays more attention to her cholesterol levels than she did in the past. An appointment with a dermatologist led to a diagnosis of her skin condition as lichen planus pigmentosus, an ailment that is characterized by discolored patches on skin exposed to the sun. She now has a skin ointment to treat flare-ups.
Rahim said her insurance plan includes dental coverage; and she's made use of it, having some teeth filled and a few pulled after years without routine dental care.
She said she contemplates the importance of health and dental insurance when she's in a waiting room at a medical office. She looks around and thinks about how not everyone has serious medical issues, but routine medical complaints require care too. "I see everyone sitting there, and we're all in the same boat."
Copyright © 2017 by the Catholic Health Association
of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.