Return to the Latest

Health Care On Hold

Screen Shot 2024 04 01 at 11.07.58 AM

Seeking health care has become another source of uncertainty and anxiety. My experience in the last few months demonstrates this. 

During the pandemic, I was laid off and had to find out-of-pocket health care insurance. While I tried making informed choices with customer advocates’ reassurances, there were still unexpected costs. My last appointment with a primary care doctor was in 2021. Unlike the other labs that were done that day, certain labs were billed separately because I asked for them. I was billed nearly $300 to test my iron levels. I was disappointed by this experience and did not go back. 

Even if I have a good experience, it has been challenging to seek continuity of care because many doctors I previously visited have quit. The remaining doctors have long wait times for appointments. For one specialist, there was a five-month wait in October, so I made an appointment for February. Then, I had to switch insurance plans again because my premium unexpectedly increased. This meant I had to confirm she was still in-network for the new insurance plan. The people I spoke to from and Blue Cross Blue Shield Illinois both assured me that the doctor was in-network. It turns out that while I live in Chicago and the specialist’s office is in Chicago, the primary care doctors for this plan are not. Since I switched to an HMO, I needed a referral to see the specialist. 

I spent countless hours on the phone in January to keep my February appointment. I was told that I would have to switch to another medical group. However, if I switch medical groups, then I cannot see the specialist because she would be out-of-network. So, I paid my premium for January just to be unable to access anything. I picked that plan on the basis that I could continue to see this one specialist, and ultimately, I had to reschedule the appointment again. Now, the appointment is for October. 

This has also affected my family. Bills charging thousands of dollars started showing up in the mail one day. We tried calling all of the involved parties. The doctor’s office told us to call the billing department the billing department would tell us to call the insurance provider, and the insurance provider would tell us to call the medical group– and round and round it went. When, after yet another day on the phone, we finally identified the problem and asked for an email to recap what had happened, the representative from the medical group just hung up. 

Rather than increasing access to health care services, the compounded effects of policies have left significantly more administrative headaches for patients to handle and more people opting out of routine health care to avoid costs. In the last few months, I have spent so much time on hold on the phone trying to advocate for me and my family. And for many like me, health care is still on hold. 


Farihah is a lifelong Chicagoan who recently completed her graduate studies in public policy at the University of Chicago.