By: Maryam Ahmed, 2013-2014 KYA Intern

My family came to the United States 16 years ago as Somali refugees who fled from a civil war. My parents were responsible for raising nine kids, two of which were my father’s siblings whose parents passed. My father took on a full-time job while my mother stayed at home to care for us.

Both of my parents did the best they could to provide for us in a place that was completely foreign to them with little to no resources. With the help and support of a few non-profit organizations, my parents were able to ensure that we had basic necessities as well as health coverage. Qualifying for Medicaid and receiving health care was a very significant part of our overall well-being and development. We were able to receive care for persistent health issues such as asthma, flu, and stomach viruses.

Once we reached the age of 18, we were no longer qualified for health coverage. Six out my 7 siblings are now over the age of 18 and have not had health insurance for years. Almost a decade to be exact for my older brother and me. We were previously not eligible under our parent’s coverage for various complicated reasons. Our lack of coverage caused us to heavily rely on emergency room services for manageable health conditions like asthma.

My younger sister was hospitalized for almost two weeks last year due to an asthma attack caused by inadequate management. Upon release, we were unable to afford the medicine she needed to fully regain her health. The hospital sent her an expensive bill for her stay despite her status as a college student with a part-time job. She is still paying the hospital bills a year later.

Lack of affordable health insurance took a toll on my family. We were constantly stressed about the next health emergency incident and how we would respond to it. For years it has been an ongoing challenge to receive basic health care, but with the launch of kynect last fall, there came an opportunity to finally become insured.

Last month, my siblings and I were able to sit together and become among the 975,000 Americans (including over 120,000 Kentuckians) to sign up for health insurance through kynect. We were ecstatic to find out that we were eligible for Medicaid. The initial process of signing up online through the kynect website was easy, convenient, and took no longer than twenty minutes. Not to mention, it was less complicated than our previous experiences of filling out piles of forms without success.

The very few last steps that involved choosing a specific plan were difficult because we did not have a regular family physician. We didn’t know how to best choose a primary health care provider since we have not made a visit to a doctor’s office in years. The website recommended that we contact kynect’s customer service line. It took about thirty minutes to get a hold of someone at the call center; however, the agent we spoke with was extremely helpful and we were able to complete our application.

We received our insurance cards shortly after completing the online applications. We no longer have to wait until severe health complications arise to seek health care. My parent’s will no longer endure stress about their young adults having access to basic care. My experience in signing up for care is not unique as my friends have also had positive experiences signing up for care.