“For 12 minutes one night in October 2016, Mallory Heath could not speak.
The 30-year-old, Arizona-based English teacher was suffering an aphasia migraine. She couldn’t write or talk like she usually could; her words came out jumbled and nonsensical. But amid the terrifying episode, Heath chose not to go to the emergency room. She knew she could not afford the expenses.
“I realized,” Heath told MONEY in a recent interview, “how often do I put my health on the line because I just don’t have the funds to be able to care of myself?”
More than a year later, Heath is just weeks away from leaving the profession she calls her identity. She lives and breathes teaching, spending hours outside of the classroom listening to education podcasts, reading pedagogy, attending conferences and serving on the board of the Arizona English Teachers Association. But making $42,000 a year before taxes and before a significant portion goes toward her pensions, she can’t afford basic living expenses like rent — and she can’t replace her decade-old pair of glasses or blown-out tires. With a Health Savings Account (HSA) insurance plan, she must carefully choose how she uses her insurance plan to cover medical expenses. Once that dries up, she has to pay for medical costs up front — and having any savings, she said, is almost out of the equation.”
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