The Big Story Blog

First Person: Lifelong health needs and coverage

Posted at 3:24 PM on June 28, 2012 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Health, Politics

Editor's Note: MPR's Molly Bloom reached out to Minnesotans in our Public Insight Network for perspective on the Supreme Court's decision upholding much of the Affordable Care Act.

Phillip Plager
Plager was 14 when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Next month, he'll celebrate "10 healthy years living with diabetes" and notes, "the consequences of well managed diabetes are.absolutely nothing."


In 2008 my father lost his job as well as the health care plan that covered our family. During our search for a new plan, I was introduced to the term "pre-existing condition."

It seemed ridiculous that I, who needed coverage the most, was unable to receive coverage from any companies no matter what I was offering to pay. I was risky, undesirable, uninsurable. The three other members of my family were able to buy private insurance. I had to figure out my own strategy for living life uninsured and I had no idea where to start.

My first priority was to get my daily medications; I cannot live without them. To buy them out of pocket from the pharmacy would cost around $700 a month.

Being a college student, I could afford this for about one month.

I went to clinics and hospitals asking for free samples of insulin, I borrowed surplus supplies from diabetics that were fortunate enough to be insured, wrote to the insulin manufactures themselves asking for handouts, and I rationed my supplies carefully by decreasing the number of times that I tested my blood sugar and reused needles. It was a very humbling time in life.

Since I was a college student not making very much income, I qualified for MinnesotaCare. Words cannot describe the thankfulness and joy that I felt when I finally received coverage. I could shift my priorities and start to focus on being healthy, rather than just trying to get by. I finally could go to the doctor.

In 2010, my wife and I gave up our health insurance to work for a development organization in Rwanda for two years. While in Rwanda, I had access to all of my medications I used in the US. However, I could buy them in Rwanda at one-tenth the price.

Theoretically, I could fly from the U.S. to Rwanda annually and buy all of my medications for the year and still save thousands of dollars. This is pathetic.

Today, I am on the hunt again for insurance options in the US. Through all of this, I realize that I have been extremely lucky. My heart aches for the millions of people that are in a similar situation, but have not been fortunate enough to receive handouts or qualify for low income government insurance.

I am thrilled with decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act. I am looking forward to be able to access health care. This is great victory for health care coverage in America.

About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.

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