By JULIE MINDA
Etta Hill is ready for things to turn up again, and she hopes that now that she has insurance, she'll be able to have a fresh "restart."
The 61-year-old widow had been living in California for decades, working as a nurse, with full insurance coverage, when in late 2014, her parents in Chattanooga, Tenn., fell ill. Hill moved back to her hometown — first temporarily and then permanently — to care for them. In December 2014, shortly after Hill's move, her mother died of complications from colon cancer surgery.
Early 2015 found Hill unemployed and uninsured, unable to transfer her nursing license to Tennessee, mourning her mother's death and caring for her father's health needs.
Burdened by the stress of her situation, Hill had a heart attack in February 2015. A month later, she had open heart surgery to remove the multiple blockages in her heart.
Without insurance at the time of her heart attack, she relied on charity care from CHI Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga for all of her medical care, including ongoing primary care appointments after her heart attack.
Hill says she didn't have insurance through the end of last year, in part because she missed some sign-up deadlines for coverage under the Affordable Care Act's healthcare.gov marketplace. While uninsured, she avoided the cardiologist and a sleep doctor she needed for a dangerous sleep issue that developed after her open-heart surgery.
Within the past year, Hill was approved for federal disability benefits. She'll be eligible for Medicare coverage 24 months after her disability certification date, but for now she must rely on private insurance.
Late last year, social worker Erricka Hill with CHI Memorial helped her navigate the insurance sign-up process. Etta Hill enrolled in a marketplace plan from BlueCross BlueShield. She gets a monthly tax credit of $196 that covers her monthly premium. She has deductibles and co-pays under the BlueCross BlueShield plan, as well as a separate dental plan from Humana that the tax credit does not cover. Her marketplace insurance coverage took effect in January.
Hill says she now is making appointments with her cardiologist and sleep doctor. Hill also has diabetes, and she says she now can get her diabetic medications at a pharmacy. When she was uninsured, she got those medications through a charity care program from the hospital.
"It means so much to me to have insurance," she says. "I am so grateful to have it, and very thankful to God for seeing me through all of this."
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