Margaret Figueroa of Staten Island, N.Y., lost her insurance and her doctors during the wave of cancellations that preceded Obamacare's fall launch, and was then denied access to her life-sustaining medications after signing up for a new plan through the government exchange.
At a Wednesday press conference with Rep. Michael Grimm, whose office helped her obtain some of her prescriptions on April 1, Figueroa choked through her tears, telling reporters, "It's hard. I have been in pain. I've been vomiting. I lost 22 pounds. The pain is unbearable. My medication helps me function during the day." The Staten Island Advance
and New York Post reported the story
after attending the conference.
Figueroa, 49, suffers from two chronic illnesses — Arnold Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia — and has survived four brain surgeries, but said she has been immobilized with pain and withdrawal symptoms for three months after being denied the five medications she takes each day.
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When Figueroa went to the pharmacy to fill her regular prescriptions, her temporary insurance card issued by her new plan under Emblem Health was denied because the company's internal paperwork hadn't yet been filed.
She had refills for some of the prescriptions, which were denied, and was able to obtain those later with the help of Rep. Grimm. She has yet to get access to the full regimen of medications she used to take, however.
Additionally, she was dismayed to discover her regular doctors weren't covered under the new Obamacare plan. In fact, only six doctors in the borough accept the new plan, and Figueroa said she can't get an appointment with any of them. Without an appointment with a new doctor, Figueroa cannot get new prescriptions written or get a referral for pain management care in the meantime.
"They just don’t have enough doctors. Two of them are full to capacity, and the others aren’t even in my radius. There are some who don’t even speak English," she said.
"This is now becoming very common," Grimm said, noting that he's helped at least a dozen other residents with similar claims.
"Now I have to find a whole new set of doctors," Figueroa told reporters. "The doctors I had were familiar with my condition. I’ve had my neurologist for years. You want to stay with someone who’s been in your brain and knows what’s going on. It’s scary because this is America. I didn’t expect to go through this."
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