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Originally published September 21, 2013 at 8:04 PM | Page modified September 22, 2013 at 7:08 AM

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Long wait for referral and scheduling for biopsy

It took Heather New more than six months to get a referral and be scheduled for a surgical biopsy at Evergreen Medical Center, where she qualified for charity care.

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Who: Heather New, 33, single, living with roommates near Bothell.

Circumstance:Lost her call-center job in early 2012 when the work was outsourced to India. Since then, with a federal retraining grant, she went back to school and is now a full-time student at Bellevue College with a 3.8 grade-point average, studying for her nursing-school entrance exam.

She works as a tutor an average of about 10 hours a week, and volunteers with a King County Library program.

Challenge: Heather has several health issues, including polycystic ovarian syndrome, allergies and asthma. But her biggest issue came last May, when she needed a biopsy for a breast lump she found and had no insurance and no money.

It took her more than six months to get a referral and be scheduled for a surgical biopsy at Evergreen Medical Center, where she qualified for charity care. “I was pretty on edge the whole time,” said Heather, who breathed a sigh of relief when the mass turned out to be benign.

Current coverage: None. When she was working, making $12.50 an hour, she couldn’t save. Even the lowest-cost insurance was too expensive. She pays $30 for a doctor visit at HealthPoint when she can afford it but has also sought care in free clinics and emergency rooms.

“I don’t want to go to the ER,” she says. “I just end up there because I have no choice.”

Options:At about $14,400-a-year income, Heather will qualify for Medicaid (now named Washington Apple Health). Heather hopes she can help banish the stigma she feels is attached to the program.

“I’m not lazy. I’m not a bum. I don’t have a mess of kids I can’t take care of,” she says. “I just want to get through school without dying!”

— Carol M. Ostrom

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