San Antonio man with cerebral palsy struggles to get health insurance before pandemic

Episode 5 of KSAT Explains focuses on San Antonio residents impacted by pandemic

SAN ANTONIOEditor’s note: This content was created exclusively for KSAT Explains, a new, weekly streaming show that dives deep into the biggest issues facing San Antonio and South Texas. Watch past episodes here and download the KSAT-TV app to stay up on the latest.

Lawrence Richardson spent more than a year without health insurance.

The San Antonio resident had Medicaid, but was told by his doctor in late 2018 that he was no longer covered and was never given a clear reason why. Trying to get his insurance back became a struggle.

Richardson has worked at Home Depot for the past couple of years, but because he’s part-time, his coverage options are limited. And because he has cerebral palsy, he needs full coverage.

“It’s been like a lot of hell,” Richardson said. “You have to have a certain kind of insurance because all insurance doesn’t cover your wheelchair equipment. So you’ve got to find insurance, you’ve got to find a company for that. It’s just a lot.”

KSAT Explains: Stories of San Antonians dealing with realities of COVID-19 crisis

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of access to health care and health insurance.

In 2018, an estimated 17 percent of people living in San Antonio below 65 years old were uninsured, according to the Urban Institute. That’s compared to 19 percent of all Texans and 11 percent of the U.S. population.

Without insurance for nearly 14 months, Richardson had to get creative. “I was just trying to make my medication stretch, which I did thank God,” said Richardson. “I only went to the doctor when I literally had to.”

He also had to rely more on help from his friends.

“I have a manual chair and an electric chair. To get that to get that fixed, you have to get it through the company you got it from. You have to have insurance,” said Richardson. “I had to get one of my friends or whoever to come and look at my chair and see what’s wrong with it. (They) look out for me.”

After months of frustration, Richardson was eventually put into contact with a program called Connect Ability at Warm Springs or CAWS.

The program helps people with disabilities and their family members navigate the medical and insurance systems.

Richardson said two individuals named Ashley and Sheila helped him get him get coverage through Medicare.

“Ashley was able to speak for me when I couldn’t because I didn’t know what to ask the insurance people,” said Richardson. “(They) came into the picture and that was the best thing in my life that happened.”

Richardson is no longer spending too much money on medication or doctor’s appointments and is able to be more independent that he would be otherwise.

He has continued to work at Home Depot through the pandemic with more peace of mind that if something were to happen due to the virus, he is fully covered.

About the Authors: