Before the Affordable Care Act, Susan had never really had health insurance. In fact, she says she’d never really had much preventative care at all.
“Growing up and then later on as well, we just weren’t real big on western medicine. Going to the doctor was for broken bones. Everything else, you get sick: try adjusting your diet, take these supplements, that sort of thing.”
She knew she’d had periodic trouble breathing since she was a kid but had never really investigated the cause behind the symptom. With no primary care doctor, she just made do treating her breathing problems with Albuterol she got from friends with a prescription.
Even when the passage of the ACA compelled her to buy coverage, a minimal insurance plan with catastrophic coverage only and high premiums was all she could afford, meaning routine check-ups remained a privilege unavailable to her. “Meanwhile, I was using my friends’ inhaler twelve or thirteen times a day in pollen-season, with no doctor to let me know I was dancing on the edge of a heart attack.”
Then, in 2016, everything changed. A personal crisis transformed her life, leaving her newly single with a teenage daughter and, for a time, no income to speak of. In search of help, she walked into the Milwaukie DHS office and found Project Access NOW assister Emilio waiting for her.
“Emilio was amazing,” Susan recalls, “all your staff are. But I just remember walking away from my first meeting with Emilio feeling like a different person.”