Sandi Sonnenfeld, Hudson Valley

My name is Sandi Sonnenfeld, I live in the Hudson Valley, and I am 54 years old.  I used to work 60 hours a week in a very high-pressure corporate communications job in NYC. After losing my job and COBRA expired, we signed up on the Exchange.  We paid for the coverage with the savings I had put aside, but neither the psychiatrist or psychologist I saw regularly for chronic depression were covered under any of the Exchange plans, so we had to pay out of pocket. Then my husband was violently assaulted and diagnosed with PTSD, so he too was seeing a psychologist on a weekly basis. In 2016, our healthcare bills exceeded $40,000. It so quickly drained our savings that we had to sell our house in Brooklyn and relocate to a cheaper location in the Hudson Valley. It is terrifying knowing you need critical health services but to procure that care, you have to use up all the financial resources you’ve worked years to accrue.

I am proof positive that even the hardest-working, most educated people can lose it all in a matter of months--I went from earning $225K a year to less than $21,000 now. As our current income is so low (I’ve not yet been able to find a new full-time position now that we live so far from the city), we recently qualified for Medicaid.  It has been a true lifesaver given my husband's illness and my own chronic condition. Medicaid is a good plan and we are most grateful to have coverage through the expanded program under Obamacare. But it doesn’t include chiropractic coverage, which is difficult for us since I was born with a reverse curvature of the neck, which causes me much trouble given that as a writer I'm on a computer all day long.  Moreover, my husband sustained a serious spinal injury 10 years ago which has left him partially disabled--and he hasn't been able to work since. Because I used to earn so high a salary and had health coverage through work, he never qualified for disability. Now we can't afford to pay for chiropractic care on our own--so we just deal with being in pain all the time.

I strongly support the New York Health Act. Too many different plans all have different provider networks, so you find yourself changing doctors all too often--even if the ones you originally had were most qualified to treat you. We need to ensure that coverage for mental health professionals extends beyond just community or hospital clinics, so people can see the best therapists for their particular diagnoses and can work with them one-on-one if needed.  We also need more respect for women's health issues (I suffer from a rare gynecological condition that required my consulting with a specialist who wasn't covered under my insurance). Again, a single payer program would likely resolve this. I feel confident that if the NYHA passes, it will become a model for the rest of the country.