Our Voices, Our Health
Part 2: Emergency Health Insurance
Previously on Part I of Healthcare on Hold, Catherine and Judy discussed Catherine’s difficulties navigating her illness without insurance. In this segment, Catherine discusses how the emergency health insurance helped her afford her surgery. The two women also express how high medical costs and a lack of insurance can discourage people from seeking treatment immediately.
Read the entire transcript in Korean.
▼ English Transcript (click to expand)
Speaker Initials: Catherine Choi - CC, Judy Choi - JC
*This is not a direct translation. This story has been summarized in English for those who do not understand or read Korean
CC It’s been 3 years since the surgery and I have the strength now. I didn’t six or seven years ago. I wonder how things would have been if I had the proper health insurance during those days. I also wish I could receive regular check ups.
JC It is possible that you didn’t have to go through all that surgery and pain if you had a health insurance then?
CC That’s correct. I may have avoided the surgery. I used to get those shots on my butt cheek that raised my hemoglobin level.
JC Do they hurt?
CC It wasn’t so much about the pain, but I would get bruised up from them. On top of that, it would cost me $400. It was $100 per shot and I had to get them once a week for a month at a time.
JC Four times a month?
CC Yes. My hemoglobin level will rise from them but the excess menses would lower it right back down every month. That cycle repeated and I couldn’t really afford it, so I gave up. I didn’t want to visit the ob/gyn so I just tried to ignore the pain. After awhile I couldn’t take it any longer so I decided to undergo a surgery. After the surgery, I became quite healthy.
JC You don’t feel dizzy?
CC It got a lot better. I used to feel really dizzy in the past, but now it’s a lot better.
JC That’s great.
CC So I paid the hospital care from that day with that insurance program. After two years, it happened again..
JC For me, even though I have a health insurance, I try not to visit the hospital because of the cost. I think first about the high bill I have to cover whenever I have to decide whether I see a doctor or not. If they are not in deep pain, even people with insurance try to avoid going to see a doctor. I can’t imagine how it would be like for people without an insurance who are really sick.
CC That is why I chose to just endure the pain. When no one in our family had insurance, we would just use home remedies to deal with toothaches. We would only visit the dentists if the pain became unbearable.
JC That is like letting the diseases to grow.
CC That’s right.
JC I hope the medical system will soon improve. I hope they lower the bar for people to get benefits.
CC I agree. It would be much easier to go get seen when we need to. I have done it all when it comes to home remedies. Before the surgery, I used to self-apply moxa.
JC By yourself or did your mother help you?
CC By myself. I would go get acupuncture and buy herbal medicines every now and then. I couldn’t get too much of them because the cost adds up. No matter what I did, the condition would worsen. Creating more blood is not an easy thing to do.
JC Right… You were the head of the family and it must have been tough on your kids. The overall mood of your home must not have been so pleasant when you were sick.
CC I would always lay down and try to rest when I wasn’t working or preparing my kids to go to school. I would try to do work as much as I could to support my family but working too much has made my condition worse. I would repeat the cycle of collapsing, going to the ER, and worrying about how to pay the medical bill. Fortunately, I found a way to cover the ER visits, so I am very thankful.
JC Yeah, you are so well now like you’ve never been sick.
CC Right...I am fine now and my kids have Medi-Cal insurance.
JC The benefits you are receiving now, are you allowed to refer others like you to receive the same benefits?
CC Yes, for the ER care, others can receive it too. The one I am receiving now; it has limits because I am undocumented now. If I had a permanent residency, I would have been eligible to receive coverage for local hospital visits whenever I need them.
JC There may be some people who are permanent residents but have no money right?
CC They could still apply for a health insurance. But for me, I couldn’t because of my undocumented status. Because of my status, I thought I could only get health care through paying cash. I eventually found out about the emergency health insurance.
JC So people like you could also be helped right?
CC Right. If they go to the ER, they could be helped through the emergency health insurance. If they don’t, they will just collapse like I did.
The Korean Resource Center (KRC) was founded in 1983 to empower low-income, immigrant, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and people of color communities in Southern California. Using a holistic approach, KRC strives to empower our community by integrating services, education, culture, organizing, and coalition building.
For more information, please contact KRC:
Address: 900 Crenshaw Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90019
Phone: (323) 937-3718
Our Voices, Our Health is a series by Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA) in collaboration with StoryCorps and multiple Health Justice Network partners. Beginning November 2017, we are be sharing compelling stories to highlight the diversity of health care challenges and experiences within California’s Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.
November 1, 2017 to January 30, 2018 is the open enrollment period for Covered California, California’s health exchange marketplace. If you need assistance to enroll, renew, or use your health coverage, click here to find a Certified Enrollment Counselor near you or contact (213) 241-0262 or [email protected]!
This series was produced by Advancing Justice-LA, with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate word. www.storycorps.org.
Advancing Justice-LA would like to thank the following Funders for their generous support of this project: The California Wellness Foundation, The California Endowment, Covered California, DentaQuest Foundation, and Walter and Shirley Wang.