You’re asthmatic and require an expensive anti-inflammatory respiratory inhaler through a prescription that has to be refilled monthly.

But without insurance you may have to choose between breathing without distress and paying another bill. Debating to choose between paying a health bill or another necessity can be a reality for some who live in the U.S. without health insurance.

The dilemma, an example of what experts say is the high price of health care for the uninsured — especially if  the MedStar Family Choice contract is not renewed after it expires Sept. 30, 2021 — was at the heart of a Ward 8 Health council meeting Sept. 15 at UDC’s Congress Heights campus.

In a meeting that marked the resumption of in-person discussion of health issues, community activists, health professionals and city officials gathered there to discuss health care issues with the MedStar controversy taking center stage.

Melissa Byrd, the D.C. director of Medicaid under the Department of Health Finance, explained how the MedStar Family Choice contract set to expire Sept. 30, 2021 is due to a larger complex situation regarding health care nationwide.

The action will leave D.C. residents without access to the health care system. More than 250,000 people in the city rely on Medicaid and such programs for health care. The end of the MedStar contract threatens that.

Byrd stated that she has “complete faith that the council will pull back the disapproval and make sure the managed care programs will continue.”

The council also discussed the need for NARCAN, a substance that is used to possibly prevent someone from overdosing on an opioid drug. According to Dr. Nura Green-Lane, office of chief medical examiner data show that 411 people died of an opioid overdose and as of April 2021 there have been 157 opioid overdoses in the city this year.

“I’m going to just say it like this — we’re on fire, folks. … I’m just saying as my friend said ‘we have to figure it out’ because we need to have these services … that are in greatest needs and they’re right here in your own backyard. So, we can’t play politics about this,” said Green-Lane.

NARCAN can reverse an opioid overdose. In the NARCAN kit there are two doses with each holding four milligrams.

“This thing is saving lives. The gentleman says that he has reversed fifteen overdoses. Understand it’s not just an overdose; he saved a life of a grandmother, a grandfather, an uncle, a brother, a mother, a child.  Understand that this is saving lives. It’s that simple.

As the meeting closed, Calvin Smith, chair of the Ward 8 Health Council, announced that he will be stepping down from his position and that Jaren Hill-Lockridge, director of The Well at Oxon Run Park, will be taking over the position and will continue to lead the council.

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