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Health Insurance Exchange Spotlight: Adrian Martinez

adrianFor Adrian Martinez of Camden, New Jersey, life begins at 51–thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

A recovering alcohol and drug addict, Martinez is turning his life around now that he can afford the medical care he needs. Martinez obtained coverage on the Health Insurance Marketplace through Project HOPE, a federally qualified health center affiliated with Lourdes Health System, for 2014 and 2015.

In December, Martinez was a guest of U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez at an event to promote health insurance enrollment, held at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center. Perez is seeking to increase enrollment among Latinos, who have lagged behind other ethnicities in purchasing insurance on the Marketplace. Nearly half of Camden’s population is Latino.

“I was just making it. Now since I’ve got the insurance this past year, it’s been really good. I don’t have to worry about, ‘Wow, I have to get medication,’ or ‘Wow, I wonder how much the doctor is going to charge me,’” said Martinez, who married his high school sweetheart 35 years ago and has three children and five grandchildren. “I’m so grateful for the insurance and I recommend it to so many people. I want to let so many people know how I’m getting myself better.”

Born and raised in Camden, Martinez worked at area restaurants and bakeries with his brother. While he earned an electrician’s degree, alcohol use kept him from having a steady job where he could get health insurance. He was not eligible for Medicaid and relied on charity care to pay for any medical expenses.

Martinez says his attitude toward life changed three years ago when he suffered a stroke. He spent 21 days in the hospital recovering from the stroke and later in physical and substance abuse rehabilitation.

Within a few months, however, he was back in the hospital.

“I was getting very dizzy, losing my voice. I didn’t know what was going on. Sometimes I would get angry. Sometimes I would be happy. My blood pressure would go sky high. I got some blood work done. I was diagnosed with hyperthyroid,” he said.

Martinez also was diagnosed with hepatitis C, but a doctor he was referred to would not see him because he only had charity care.

“They didn’t want to deal with me because I had charity care,” he said.

Now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, he can pay for his various medications and see a specialist, including one to treat his hepatitis C.

“You don’t know the feeling, the stress. I don’t have to go through that. I have insurance. I don’t know what I would do without it,” said Martinez.

Martinez attends substance abuse support group meetings twice a day, and spreads the word about the Health Insurance Marketplace to the community. “I was born here. I know half of Camden. They’re afraid, low-income people like myself. When you say insurance, they say they can’t afford it. I say, ‘Yes you can. They have plans.’”

Martinez sees a bright future ahead.

“My life is just starting at 51. I’m more confident. I want to go back to school. I want to have a big business. I do a little handyman business, but I want to do new construction,” he said. “I feel like I’m just starting off, and this is how having insurance has helped me. I can deal with a situation that I was afraid of. For many years, I was afraid of going to the doctor and finding out what’s going on. I would have no way to take care of it. This is a big thing for me. It’s like a miracle.”

 

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