Heart of the Valley: McAllen family describes financial impact of diabetes diagnosis

7 months 3 weeks 14 hours ago Monday, April 10 2023 Apr 10, 2023 April 10, 2023 4:05 PM April 10, 2023 in News - Local

The Rio Grande Valley ranks high in poverty, obesity and diabetes — and many of those diagnosed with the disease can't afford health insurance to help treat it.

McAllen resident Cynthia Quintanilla said she and her husband don't have a history of diabetes in their families. Their son, Gabriel Benitez, was just over a year old when he was diagnosed with type one diabetes last June.

The diagnosis changed their lives in many ways, especially financially.

"Those expenses, they are hard," Quintanilla said. "They take an impact on your family, and we work very hard for our family, and then something like this happens. It changes your life, it changes your world."

The family did not have health insurance at the time of their sons' diagnosis. They tried to apply for assistance, but didn't qualify.

For six months, they had to pay for all of their son's diabetic needs out of pocket, with costs totaling around $1,800 a month.

Sacrifices had to be made. The Quintanilla's closed one of their two offices, where they operate their family owned business, to save money.

"We also had to sell our house to make sure that Gabriel continues to have the life that he needs," Quintanilla said.

Nearly a third of the Valley is living in poverty, leaving many in the area struggling to pay for health costs, but resources are available at organizations such as the Hope Family Health Center.

The center has locations in Weslaco and McAllen to serve those in our community who are 100% uninsured.

"In the McAllen clinic, they have the medical site over there where they have free counseling, free doctor visits, free consultation," Hope Family Health Center Psychotherapist Rosemary Lopez said. "There are seminars on how to eat better. "The doctor that we have on site is also prescribed medication for free, so we do have that."

All these services are free, but patients are asked to donate at least $5 to help cover the costs of services. However, no patient is turned away for inability to pay.

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