When funding for her AmeriCorps job ended in July, so did Kafayat Lawal's health insurance. Through AmeriCorps, Lawal worked for the non-profit Central Baltimore Partnership, a coalition of universities, nonprofits, neighborhood groups and property owners that work to revive Baltimore neighborhoods. The group kept her on contract until last month, but didn't provide insurance. Lawal, who lives in Baltimore, got a letter shortly before her coverage lapsed saying she could pay out of pocket to continue it. "I never looked to see how much it is," she said. "It's not the first thing on my mind. Health is something that I really don't think about." What is on her mind is paying off debt, finding a job and getting through graduate school. She doesn't think she could afford to pay for insurance on her own. "I don't make a lot and I surely didn't make a lot with AmeriCorps," she said. Lawal is too old to get on her parent's plan and said the student health plan offered at Morgan State University, where she is pursuing a graduate degree, was too expensive. She didn't want to take out additional loans to cover it. She knows that logically health insurance is important and would love to have it if she could. But right now it seems more like a luxury. "I know it would be even more expensive if something happened to me and I wasn't covered," she said. Plus, Lawal said, she doesn't have allergies, asthma or other ailments where she needs to see a doctor regularly. The last time she went to the hospital was at age 6, when she had tonsillitis. She eats right and exercises regularly. "I am betting on the fact that I stay healthy and won't have any problems," Lawal said. Lawal said she has heard all about Obamacare and may look into health plans offered under the law, especially if she doesn't have luck finding a job. But once again it will come down to price. "It would have to be something that I could afford to pay for," she said.
Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun