Partnership For Solutions
Perspectives

Kent Engler
Lawrence, Kansas

No health insurance company in the country wants to talk to me. I am a 57-year-old uninsured man and have tried several times to buy health insurance on my own. But whenever I tell a company representative that I have diabetes, the conversation is over.

I have a lot of health problems, most of them caused by diabetes. I take shots every week to manage my blood sugar levels. I've had laser surgery on both my eyes because I was going blind. My balance is so poor that I can't work. Last Fourth of July, I became dehydrated from a medication I have to take to reduce water retention. That caused me to feel dizzy, fall, and hit my head. I had to get 20 stitches and spend four days in the hospital.

It's too bad that I didn't have health insurance before I found out I was diabetic. Now that I know, it's too late.

I was always healthy. I did physical labor - hauling freight and newspapers. I thought I had no problems. But then, about six or seven years ago, things started happening.

By that time, the diabetes had set in, only I didn't know it. My circulation had turned bad, and I started losing feeling in my feet. One day, I got a rock in my shoe that I couldn't feel. I was on my feet all day, working, and wound up with an infection so bad that my whole foot turned black. I went to the company doctor, who said at first that the foot would have to come off. But I didn't want to do that, so he drained the infection and it was all right.

A year later, I stepped off the edge of a loading dock, fell, and broke a bone in my toe. This time I had to have surgery to remove the bone, and that's when the doctors ran some tests and discovered I had diabetes. I also learned that I had high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

At the time, I had no health insurance - only workers' compensation insurance. That covered the treatment I needed for my injury, but it didn't cover any of the follow-up care that I needed for my diabetes and other problems.

My health got worse and worse. I had to quit working full-time. For a while, I was able to do some part-time work, but then things got so bad that I had to stop working all together. Now I'm on total disability from Social Security. I still don't have any health care coverage, though.

As I said, I've tried to buy health insurance myself. But the insurance companies won't write you a policy if you're already sick. Of course, I don't even know whether I could afford health insurance if they did offer me a policy. Meanwhile, I am trying to get coverage through the state Medicaid program.

I always worked hard when I was in good health - often putting in 12 or 15 hours a day. But now that my health is so bad, it seems like getting the health care I need has become my main job.



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