Not One Plan: Sarah’s Story

Sarah Piepenburg runs a small business, Vinaigrette, in Minneapolis. She is a member of Main Street Alliance of Minnesota, an organization that works to provide small businesses a voice in the most pressing public policy issues in Minnesota and nationally.

We started our business, Vinaigrette, over ten years ago. When we started it, we didn’t really think about health care. We were fortunate because, through our husband’s previous employer, we were still covered under COBRA. When COBRA expired, we were full-swing into our business. We were surprised to find out that as a family of three, we made $24,000. This put us way below the poverty line, which in some ways was fortunate, because then were covered under Medical Assistance.

We were covered under MA for a few years, and then came the Affordable Care Act. I excitedly went online to figure out what I could get, but our income at the time was too low, so we didn’t qualify for the open market. But we no longer qualified for MA, so we were put on the supplemental track. It wasn’t really a problem because it was something we could afford. But then, in 2017, we as a family made $57,670. The cutoff for supplemental insurance was $57,560, so that left us on the open market. It crushed me because nothing was affordable.

Not one plan.

Our dignity, health, and lives shouldn’t be crowdfunded.

The plan we finally thought we could afford was $800 a month and left us with a $10,000 deductible. Flash forward to today. I am one of the thousands of Minnesotans who is currently uninsured.

I know I can’t afford health care for myself, let alone my employees. Which literally leaves me one accident away from absolute financial disaster.

I have asthma. I need a steroid inhaler and a rescue inhaler. I no longer take my steroid inhaler because it simply isn’t affordable. It’s over $300 a month and, despite my doctor’s and pharmacist’s effort to get those costs reduced, the cheapest one was still $150 a month. That isn’t affordable for me.

My parents are in their 70s. They’ve been with me in the hospital as I’ve struggled to breathe as a child. And they chronically ask, “What if something major happens, Sarah? What if you got cancer?” And I simply respond by saying, “I’m going to rely on my friends and family to host a benefit, and I’ll start a GoFundMe page.”

Our dignity, health, and lives shouldn’t be crowdfunded. I’m tired of health care being looked at as a privilege. It’s a human right. And to have a system of varying levels of insurance, you’re creating a system where the “haves” have more, and the “have nots” still have less. And I really want to see that change.

We all have a health care story, because health care is a basic, fundamental need. This is part of a weekly series during Minnesota’s legislative session where we share the health care stories of Minnesotans like you. Share your story here.

Learn about Main Street Alliance Minnesota and their work on healthcare reform.

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