Candido “Candy” Ramos, Certified Application Counselor, Local 1549 Photo: Clarence Elie-Rivera
One of the worst feelings possible is when you are in need of help and those people who could assist you refuse to do so. I have experienced this in my life and it is the reason why I love the job that I have, a career that revolves around helping people with something that they cannot take for granted — their health. Not only is it my job to help people when they need it, but I want to help people when they need it. I want them to never experience the kind of hopelessness I had to when I was on the other side of the table.
As a Certified Application Counselor at New York City’s Department of Human Resources and Administration, I spend my days signing people up for medical coverage through either Medicaid or other affordable coverages. People tend to think that health insurance is too expensive to have. But there are reasonable options available. And health insurance is absolutely a need. You may be perfectly fine and fit today, but you never know what might happen tomorrow. In the blink of an eye, you can end up hurt and in need of care that could literally leave you in a state of bankruptcy if you do not have insurance to cover your bills.
We work with everybody who calls us looking for coverage, including legal and illegal immigrants. Sadly, many are now afraid to sign up for insurance because of President Trump’s agenda against immigrants. People are worried that if they sign up and give out their addresses they will be deported. I have to remind them that we aren’t ICE; we are medical insurance, and we are keeping them safe and healthy.
The union to me means acceptance. That no matter who you are, regardless of your gender or sexuality or religion or race, you are a part of the union family and will be defended and represented equally with everybody else in the union. Those other things don’t matter. I matter. That isn’t a feeling you get very often in this world, but my union makes me feel exactly that way. Equal and important.
This story previously appeared in the July-August 2017 issue of Public Employee Press.
The DC 37 Blog is an online publication of District Council 37, AFSCME, which represents 126,000 municipal employees in New York City.