Laurie Scop resides in Florida where she is working to make sure the voices of Americans without health care are heard. Below is her story.
Millions of Americans continue to go without access to affordable health care, they are hurting, and we need to start listening. I’ve faced severe disease myself, and I nearly lost my life. I’ve also been malnourished and rushed to the hospital because I was unable to pay for my insurance and the food that I needed to survive.
We can’t keep forcing human beings into making choices like this. We have to speak up, organize, and be willing to take action when our elected leaders won’t.
In 2001, I was diagnosed with a severe neurological disease that left me bedridden, disabled, and residing in a nursing home as a young woman. I wasn’t expected to recover, but I beat the odds with the help of some very talented doctors. I was fortunate enough to have access to health care, but I’d soon learn that wouldn’t always be the case.
By the time I fully recovered eight years later, the unemployment rate was 12% in Miami, and I needed work. I took a job for a non-profit organization, but that job did not initially come with health care. Given my history, I knew I needed insurance so pulled every penny together to make sure I had access to doctors and medicine. Despite working full-time and some very long hours, though, I was still struggling.
Paying the rent was a problem. Buying food was a problem.
I was under the impression that if I kept working hard, I’d be given permanent status at work and gain access to health care through my employer. But skipping meals was taking its toll. During my first six months on the job, I dropped to 98 pounds.
I finally relented and cancelled my health insurance, knowing that I wouldn’t survive if I didn’t make some changes. But it was too late. On one hot summer afternoon, I was found unconscious in my office — dehydrated and malnourished. I woke up in the hospital, uninsured for the first time in my life, with a substantial amount of medical debt. Shortly after I returned to work, I was laid off, ineligible for Medicaid, and unable to afford basic doctor visits.
When the Affordable Care Act was passed, I still couldn’t get health care because my home state of Florida didn’t pass Medicaid expansion. Access to Medicaid would have made a big difference in my situation, and it would still make a huge difference today for millions of Americans in states that still haven’t closed the health coverage gap. I may have never received the help I needed, but it’s not too late to do the right thing.
While my journey was incredibly hard and nearly cost me my life, I consider myself lucky. My life is better now, and I’m alive to tell my story while others are not. Every day, Floridians and other Americans die because they can’t access affordable health care. And that has to change.
Expanding Medicaid is a life-saving policy measure, one that honors the sanctity of every human life and ensures that people have access to things like cancer treatments and heart medication. It brings taxpayers’ money back to their states, and it even boosts the economy and creates jobs.
It’s time that we stop listening to the special interests and start listening to common-sense by expanding Medicaid and helping the millions of Americans who continue to slip through the cracks in our health care system.