N-MAP Voices: Vanessa Gigliotti on Equal Access to Health Care

Meet Vanessa Gigliotti.  We interviewed Vanessa through our work with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest on the issue of segregated access to health care in New York.  Vanessa is a stage 4 colon cancer survivor, diagnosed at the shockingly young age of 27.  She is now 36 years old.

Vanessa’s initial encounter with the NY state health system took place in a clinic, where the fact that she did not have private health insurance did not go unnoticed. Her experience there was so traumatizing that the next time she sought medical care, her health issues had reached a much more dire status, with numerous complications to attend to along with the cancer.

However, Vanessa’s story does not end there.  In a twisted turn of luck, due to the severity of her colon cancer at such a young age, Vanessa was able to receive treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering, recognized as one of NY’s premier private hospitals.  When Vanessa was in the clinic, everyone was assigned a different color bracelet, which identified what kind of insurance that patient carried; Vanessa and her roommate had different color bracelets from those down the hall.  At Memorial, everyone had exactly the same ID bracelet, meaning the doctors, nurses, and everyone else had no idea whether she was on Medicaid or not.  All anybody knew was that she was a cancer patient.  Below, Vanessa speaks about the disparity in her treatment and what she believes needs to change.

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