Kansas Stories: Chandra

Chandra is from Wichita. She is a mom and a poet, and is currently working on her second poetry collection. Chandra’s KanCare expansion story is about her mom, Jo Anne.

Jo Anne never really had access to insurance. She worked waiting tables — a job that didn’t provide health insurance. She made too much to qualify for KanCare, the state’s Medicaid program. She tried to apply for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, but she would have had to pay full price because she made too little for financial assistance.

Jo Anne didn’t get routine health care because it would cost too much. Chandra’s mom developed diabetes as she got older. Chandra recalled many ER visits for her mom because her illnesses would get so bad that she couldn’t put off care anymore. It was a struggle. Because she was uninsured, she had to visit multiple clinics to get the care she needed.

When Medicaid expansion was included in the Affordable Care Act, Jo Anne had hope. She thought she could finally get routine care because she would finally have regular health insurance. But Kansas didn’t expand Medicaid. It was devastating to her.

“She didn’t want to be unhealthy,” Chandra said. “She wanted to live a full and active life.”

Jo Anne needed asthma medication and breathing treatments, but she had to go to the emergency room to get that care, so it was costly. While visiting the ER, Jo Anne ended up getting x-rays, which came back abnormal. The doctor suggested getting a CT scan, but since she was uninsured, that was difficult to do, with many hoops to jump through.

“It’s not that way if you have insurance,” Chandra said.

They waited several weeks, but still hadn’t gotten the results. Chandra got a call from her mom one evening; Jo Anne was struggling to breathe again. They went to the ER. Chandra explained to an intern that her mom had a CT scan done, but they had never gotten the results. The intern had an oncologist look at the scans, and they received devastating news: Jo Anne had a very rare and aggressive form of lymphoma.

Jo Anne started seeing an oncologist who told her that she should start chemotherapy right away. But when the doctor found out she was uninsured, he told her she would need to be on Medicaid before treatment could begin. Otherwise, she would need to pay $500 per week until she had health coverage. Jo Anne didn’t have the means to pay that much.

Chandra’s friend offered a loan so her mom could start her first chemotherapy session, but eight days after her first treatment, Jo Anne died.

Chandra knows that if her mom had qualified for KanCare, she could have gotten routine health care and started cancer treatments much sooner. She could have spent more time with her mom, and perhaps Jo Anne would still be here today.

Chandra tells her mom’s story to advocate for expansion. She has seen firsthand how important health insurance is and she wants Kansans in the coverage gap to have access to care, and not have to go through the same tragedy her family went through.

Do you or someone you know have a health insurance story to share? Email marissa@expandkancare.com.