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Thai Native Finds Inexpensive Health Care Overseas
Newsline photo by Melanie Lo

Walen Pongsupapat struggles to find a health care plan in America  that will fit her needs and budget.  (Newsline photo by Melanie Lo)

By Melanie Lo
Maryland Newsline
Friday, May 6, 2005

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. – After a strenuous kick-boxing session at the gym that resulted in a twisted ankle, Walen Pongsupapat walks with a limp.

“I bandaged it myself,” she said, indicating the Ace bandage wrapped around her left ankle. She has not been to see a doctor for the injury, because she has not been able to afford health insurance.

“But, I will go to the doctor if it doesn’t get better,” she said.

Aside from her injury, the 21-year-old student at Howard Community College said she also suffers from chronic depression that requires regular psychiatric visits. 

The native of Thailand has lived in the United States for six years without health insurance. She works part time at a 7-Eleven store in Baltimore.

“I just felt like it is expensive here [in America], and I don’t know if I need [health insurance],” she said.

In fall 2002, Pongsupapat sought help from the mental health counseling center at Howard Community College. She said a doctor diagnosed her with depression. Since then, she said she takes advantage of the school’s free counseling services for students, seeing a therapist every other week.

But the counseling sessions, she said, were not enough to ease her depression.

“I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t eat,” she said. “I didn’t want to go to school.” She said her grades dropped and she stopped attending classes.  In November, Pongsupapat withdrew from school for the semester and flew to Thailand.

She stayed overseas for about three months. While in Thailand, she said she was able to see a psychiatrist who prescribed her Zoloft for her depression, which she took once a day. She returned to the United States in late January to re-enroll for the spring semester.

She said she expects to go home again this summer, for a month or two, to see her parents and visit a psychiatrist.

On her last trip to Thailand, she purchased prescription drugs to bring back to the United States. When she runs out, her mother will send her more.

Pongsupapat said that the therapist at her college has tried to help her find an affordable psychiatrist in the United States. She has also started to look for affordable health insurance.

The plan she is looking at now is about $50 to $60 a month, but does not cover prescription drugs, she said.


Copyright © 2005 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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