Megan Anderson and Samantha Dyroff are both medical students at the University of Missouri. They also both work with MedZou, a student-run health clinic here in town, and hold positions within the organization. They spoke about some of the barriers – including insurance coverage – that their patients face.
Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org.
Megan Anderson: It wasn’t until I came to college that I like lost insurance for the very first time just because of like personal means, and did I realize how difficult it is sometimes to navigate without insurance.
Realizing that first hand made me realize yes this is the population that I definitely want to work with because this is the population that a) needs the best care and b) is not getting it currently because of the current situation that we’re in with our health policy.
Samantha Dyroff: Missouri has such a large uninsured population and that goes against, you know, the whole Obamacare and wanting to expand it. You know we were supposed to fix that problem and we were supposed to drive that down, but Missouri ends up having, you know, this prolonged disparity because we decided not to expand the services that we were supposed to.
So, all of a sudden you have this whole isolated population and you’re telling them that, you know, this huge bill that was passed in Congress that was supposed to fix their problems for them and help them get their basic needs isn’t because our state decided that we didn’t want to help subsidize it.
Megan: I’ve had a patient that I worked with here that’s been at MedZou for five or six years now, so these are patients that are chronically uninsured. And I’m glad you mentioned it’s in part because Missouri didn’t expand Medicaid.
There are people that make too much money to be able to be on Medicaid and don’t make enough money to be able to be on the Affordable Care Act. That’s like an important back story to why our clinic even exists for any of our patients.
My first year of med school I did a lot of outreach clinics with MedZou, so that’s when we basically took the services that MedZou offers and we offer it directly into the community. So, we go to organizations like the Center Project, which is our local LGBTQ center, or Turning Point, which is a local community center for people who are home insecure or homeless, and we would go and offer different medical services there.
I was just doing a general blood pressure/blood sugar clinic, and I was chatting with some of the patients there. I usually just kind of generally ask around like, “Oh, do you all have a physician that you see?” Things like that. And one person that I was talking to in particulate just told me, “Oh yea, I do. I go to the E.R. and that’s whenever I get my blood pressure medicines. When I start feeling like I’m going to have a heart attack then I know I need to go to the E.R. and they give me my medications.”
And so just realizing and reflecting on the fact that we have people here in Columbia that can’t access medications that can prevent them from having a heart attack and instead are forced to go to the E.R. almost every single time they feel like that’s going to happen. Your E.R. doctor, although emergency medicine is very amazing and very important, should not be the person you get your general medications from.
Samantha: That’s what’s very interesting about our clinic is if you aren’t going to cover those people then we will instead. I find that very disheartening. As much as I love working there, you realize almost every patient we see, we’re seeing because the government ultimately failed them in some other way.