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‘Hot Cripple’: The Nightmare of Living Uninsured in America

Stacy Curtin

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Day two of arguments are currently underway at the U.S. Supreme Court over President Obama's signature health care legislation, the Affordable Care Act, signed into law in March 2010 and currently on pace to go into full effect by 2014.

The three-day hearings began Monday with the justices listening to arguments over whether they had jurisdiction to rule on a law that has not been fully implemented. The main topic for Tuesday is the most controversial part of the law, the individual mandate, which would require most Americans without health insurance to buy coverage or pay a penalty. Other issues to be considered this week include whether states can be forced to expand Medicaid to cover low-income people without health insurance, as well as what happens next if key parts of the law are struck down.

Today almost 50 million Americans do not have health care coverage, according the latest Census Bureau figures.

A new poll by CNN/ORC International finds that the majority of Americans do not want the high court to completely overturn the current law. Nearly 25% of Americans want the Supreme Court to leave the bill untouched; 43% of respondents believe some parts should be overturned and 30% want the bill completely overturned.

Hogan Gorman is in the camp with most Americans. Is the Affordable Care Act perfect? "No, but it's a start and it's a start that we need," she tells The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task in the accompanying video.

Gorman knows all too well what it is like to get seriously injured in the United State of America without health insurance. She has detailed her nightmarish experience in her new book Hot Cripple: An Incurable Smart-Ass Takes on the Health Care System and Lives to Tell the Tale, which is based on her award-winning one-woman show.

In 2004 she was an ex-model and struggling actress who was waitressing to pay the bills.

"I did not have insurance because I could not afford it," she says. "Between rent and eating in New York City and the night club I worked in did not offer health insurance."

One day while walking to her waitressing job in downtown Manhattan a speeding car barreling toward her at 40 miles per hour hit her. Her head took out the entire windshield and she was rushed to the emergency room.

Because she did not have health insurance she did not get very good care at the emergency room. "Once they found out I did not have insurance I was basically ignored," she explains. "I had to beg for a CAT scan of my head and the man in the bed next to me who had only fainted during dinner whose CAT scan came back fine was kept over night for observation. Everyone was paying attention to him and I was released with a neck brace and a 'good luck'."

From there things went from "bad to worse."

Her injuries included five herniated discs, a sever concussion which caused short-term memory loss, vision and balance problems, two torn ligaments and a chunk off the back of her knee cap.

"No doctor would see me until I was covered by something called no-fault which covers people hurt in accidents up to a certain amount of money," Gorman says. "I had to find a lawyer before any doctor would see me to be covered by that but they can cut you off at anytime, which they ended up doing."

She was in constant physical and financial pain.

"I couldn't work and went through what little savings I had and maxed out my credit cards," she says. "[I] ended up on food stamps and Medicaid and disability and I had to borrow money from these loan shark type companies that loan people money against their settlements because I had to survive."

It has taken Gorman several years to recover and unlike many, she's been able to overcome her dire circumstances and make lemonade out of lemons, so to speak.

While she does believe the Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction, she believes a lot more has to be done to fix the health care crisis in this country.

"I'm not hearing anything from the insurance companies about how they are going to make it more affordable so that every American can get health insurance," says Gorman. "Health care shouldn't be a luxury that only some can afford."

She is very concerned for those who are not currently covered. "They are one accident or one illness away from being exactly where I was."

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