There are two main ways individuals can enroll in programs here in Chicago: state medicaid programs and the Health Insurance Marketplace, the federal portal for private health insurance with financial assistance for some.
The Marketplace has a mandatory account creation step if you want to complete your application electronically. Realistically, if you want a chance at real time results and verification, this is the way. You could try your hand at a phone application or mailing in one, but every indication tells us wait time lasts several months. That’s time most of my patients don’t have to spend. There is no guarantee that they will be able to come back or want to. When daily survival and life bogs you down, your health insurance becomes the last thing you worry about
I have become a creature of opportunity- I have to jump on every chance I have to complete an application in one sitting whenever possible because I have learned the lesson the hard way… people whose stories break your heart, stories that stay with you when the dissatisfaction of an incomplete application strikes, and the step after: the cold and heartbreak when you never see them again and you don’t know what happened. I have come to resent account creation. It reminds of me daily of the privileges my clients don’t have: emails, regular computer access, literacy.
The aspect I want to chat about for a second are the security questions. I know I personally don’t mull them over a lot, its heartening and cool to see our clients insert their personalities and selves through their responses. These questions are things like: What’s your favorite childhood toy? Who is your favorite childhood friend? Where’s your favorite vacation spot? Sometimes, these questions in account creation give us a break from the serious and monotony of the application:
G: What is your favorite cuisine?
G: Really? me too.
I: I really, really love them but don’t tell my husband– I ate his this morning and blamed it on my son. He’s still really grouchy.
G: Secret is safe with me 😉
Sometimes, these questions break my heart. Today I asked Ignacia what I thought to be an innocuous question. We were on a roll- we had just shared a moment. We had an inside joke now. We’re laughing. Lets keep laughing, right? Wrong.
G: What is your favorite childhood toy?
I: [Silence. Ignacias demeanor changes, she slumps down, smile is gone. My heart sinks]
I: I’m not ignoring you, I just… I haven’t had to relive those times in long time. I grew up poor, the poorest of the poor. I had no toys. I had my dog and my sticks.
G: I’m sorry for the question, Ignacia. I can select another question if you would like.
I: No, it’s okay miss. I’m not ashamed of my past. Besides, isn’t the whole point of security questions to pick something I will never forget?
Ignacia was able to choose her answer and we moved on in the application. I’m still playing the waiting game with her, but at least we have each other as friends and allies to help get her through this process. This is one answer I will never forget.