My name is Ilana Adlee, I am a dedicated advocate of heart disease prevention and youth advocate for the American Heart Association. I want to address the very crucial need for closing the health insurance coverage gap for North Carolinians who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level. Health insurance is a necessity for everyone, but its high cost is not financially accessible to all people. This is where our state fails and must be reconstructed.
As a young person in North Carolina, I see the detrimental effects of having little to no healthcare because of cost. My own mother is a heart disease survivor and advocate, who survived because of research, funding, and most importantly, her parent’s adequate health insurance coverage. She was born with a hole in her heart the size of a quarter. At the age of two, she had to undergo surgery and multiple treatments that were and still are necessary for keeping her alive. Without healthcare, my mother would have likely died, ceasing my existence.
My family was and is one of the fortunate ones, but many in our state aren’t. There are adults all over our state who lack the healthcare they require, without this health insurance coverage they become ill and unequipped to take care of their families. Then, the children may either find jobs to take care of the family or are forced to live with other people. We have the power to stop this damaging cycle, and it all starts with healthcare.
Life is the most basic right granted every human being; this life begins with health. Right now, nearly 340,000 North Carolinians do not have access to affordable health insurance coverage. One in six parents in our state lack access to health insurance. When a parent is uninsured and unable to take care of their own health, it impacts the entire family, especially the children. Healthy parents are critical to the economic stability of families. The lack of access to affordable health insurance coverage results in people avoiding care they need and waiting until a problem is so acute that they end up in the emergency room. What could have been addressed simply becomes complex and costly. Medical costs are often more than struggling families can afford and the result is a downward spiral into more financial hardship. When a family has these hardships, it is not just the parents who suffer, but the entire family.
I have witnessed this happen to friends. One of my friends, Anne, had to give up taking dance because her father was battling skin cancer. The bills for his treatment were so expensive that every member of the family sacrificed extra activities to afford living in their home and having food to eat. Families should not have to sacrifice experiences because of healthcare cost. Healthcare is something people have to allow them to continue daily routines including employment. It should not be something that prevents them from participating in activities that build their quality of life.
When I look to the future I hope everyone has access to affordable health insurance coverage. Life and good health are hand in hand and we must care for them both. That can happen when we have access to healthcare. We must find a solution to the current coverage gap situation and help the 340,000 North Carolinians who can’t access affordable health insurance coverage. You never know whose life you will save, but indeed we know there will be lives saved.