Sam Chavarría said her doctor was clear about the birth defects her medication could cause if she became pregnant but agreed to keep her on it as long as she had an IUD.
As she was waiting to get her contraceptive intrauterine device replaced at her local clinic, however, the billing nurse told her that her insurance wouldn’t cover the removal — or a new IUD. Chavarría didn’t understand why not.
“Then she said very delicately, ‘Well, people on this insurance typically tend to be older,’” Chavarría recalled.
Although Chavarría is 34, she is enrolled in Medicare, the government insurance program designed for those 65 and older. Chavarría, who lives in Houston, is disabled by fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and mental health issues. Medicare automatically enrolls anyone who has received Social Security disability benefits for two years and this was her first time getting an IUD while in the government program.
Without insurance, just removing her expired IUD would cost Chavarría $350 out-of-pocket, exchanging it for a new one would be $2,000. She left the clinic in tears.
Chavarría’s experience is not rare. Medicare was originally intended for people of retirement age. Over the years, the program has evolved to include new populations, such as those who have disabilities or are critically ill, said Jennifer Lea Huer, a public health expert at Yale University. In 2020, 1.7 million people ages 18 thro …