Tina Wilson knows what it's like to have a serious medical condition and no health insurance.
Feb. 11, 2013, (Portland) — Tina Wilson, 56, Oregon City, has had a stroke, a stent implanted in her leg and cardiac surgery. She's made numerous trips to doctors and emergency departments and has gone through a myriad of medical tests.
Wilson knows what it's like to have a serious medical condition and no health insurance. She became uninsured two years ago after losing her job as an instructor of medical assistants.
From an initial misdiagnosis – and, because she could no longer afford to go to her usual primary care physician – she bounced around to different doctors and different hospitals. She would wait until something was really wrong with her health – such as the time her toes turned black and her leg turned purple to go to the emergency room. Surgeons placed a stent in her left leg hoping to improve blood flow to save her toes.
"I expect to have ongoing expenses. I really need to have some kind of health insurance." ~ Tina Wilson
Then, in August – a day after her 56th birthday and after lunch with friends – she couldn't lift her left arm. Paramedics rushed her to the hospital. Tests indicated she had multiple heart attacks along with the stroke.
"I kept telling the doctor, 'I have not had a heart attack.' I couldn't believe it," she said. Further checking was done, and it was then discovered she had a life-threatening tumor in her heart, which had caused the heart attack-like indications.
The tumor was lodged in the left side of her heart, restricting the blood flow. It was this blockage that had been causing all of her other symptoms for the past two years. Quickly she was scheduled for open heart surgery.
Wilson blames not having health insurance, which would have meant she would have had a consistent primary care physician, for the near tragedy of her situation. She reasons that having regular care may have caught her tumor earlier. This would have meant fewer trips to the ER – which are costly – and possibly a quicker return to a job for Wilson. She was also working on her master's degree but her health issues got in the way of that also.
She is not cleared by doctors to return to work just yet. She can't lift more than 20 pounds and has very limited use of her left arm. She would like to be able to have physical therapy to speed her recovery, but she can't afford it. She is facing thousands in medical bills even though the hospital has forgiven the surgical and other costs. The anesthesiologist's bill, which was not written off, is $14,000. Her daughter had moved in with her, and is paying the bills for now.
Wilson is hoping to someday get a job with health insurance, but in the meantime she is hoping to get on the Oregon Health Plan. The Oregon Health Plan is on a random drawing system, and has very limited spaces.
"I expect to have ongoing expenses. I really need to have some kind of health insurance," she said.