Woman with chronic illnesses says Obamacare left her without doctors and medication
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- After receiving her new health coverage in January throughthe New York State of Health Marketplace, Arden Heights resident Margaret Figueroa, 49, who suffers from two chronic illnesses, went to her pharmacy to fill her prescriptions.
Although her insurance company, Emblem Health, assured her she was covered, her insurance card was denied.
While she had signed up for new health coverage -- because her insurance carrier dropped her old plan.
She also learned that all her long-time doctors didn't accept the new insurance plan.
For Ms. Figueroa, who suffers from a rare neurological disease called Arnold Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia, this has led to three months of excruciating pain, withdrawal symptoms and immobility.
"It's hard," said Ms. Figueroa, through her tears Wednesday at a press conference at Rep. Michael Grimm's (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) New Dorp office.
"I have been in pain. I've been vomiting. I lost 22 pounds. The pain is unbearable. My medication helps me function during the day," added Ms. Figueroa, who has undergone four brain surgeries for her conditions, which require her to take numerous amounts of medication.
After intervention by Grimm's office, Ms. Figueroa was able to obtain some of her prescriptions on April 1 for which she had refills.
She takes five different medications several times per day, like morphine for the chronic pain and other medications to help slow the affects of her nerve damage.
But some of her prescriptions had no refills, forcing her to go without them for three months.
And Ms. Figueroa can't find a doctor who participates in her new plan to write new prescriptions, give her referrals for pain management care, or treat her for her illnesses.
"Even though the insurance company cashed your check, it doesn't mean it (the policy) has been implemented," said Grimm.
"That's the problem -- that the back end of Obamacare hasn't been fully built.You can go on the front end of an application and look at a list of plans, but what they don't tell you is that many of those plans don't have doctors yet."
Ms. Figueroa said only six doctors in the borough accept her new health plan, and she has yet to be able to get an appointment with one.
Grimm says he's dealt with at least one dozen Staten Islanders who have had similar issues as Ms. Figueroa after signing up for healthcare via the NY State of Health Marketplace.
"We didn't solve anything (with Obamacare), all we did was destroy a good thing," said Grimm. "Obamacare wasn't ready for prime time."
Grimm advises his constituents to "test" their new health coverage by calling their doctors and pharmacy to make sure they accept the new coverage.
At the time this story was written, both the New York State of Health and Emblem Health were unavailable for comment about Ms. Figueroa's situation.
Anyone with similar Obamacare-related difficulties can contact contact Grimm's office at 718-351-1062.