Would you be willing to live apart from the love of your life in order to ensure that person receives the medical care that he or she needs to survive? That’s the situation being faced by Larry and Linda Drain, who are being forced to live in separate homes so that Linda will be considered low income enough to continue to qualify for her state’s Medicaid program. Even that situation may be impossible to obtain, and the Drains are fighting back by demanding the governor make the one change that could easily save their relationship and bring affordable health care to thousands of Tennesseans.
They are imploring him to expand TennCare, as so many other governors throughout the country have done.
When the Affordable Care Act passed, one component of the program would allow states to expand their own state Medicaid programs to up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. The additional costs were to be picked up by the federal government, costing the states no local budgetary burden.
Republican governors, however, balked. Desperate to do their own part to bolster their party’s determination that the ACA fail, GOP lead states refused to allow the expansion, stating that while the feds may pay for all of it for the first 3 years and 90 percent of it there after, no doubt at some point the burden will be shifted back onto local governments, and it was a fiscal weight they wouldn’t be able to bear. Their real intention, of course, was to keep as many people unable to afford new health care plans as possible, assuming that those uninsured would balk when the federal mandate requiring every person to either be insured or pay a penalty went into place. Instead, in states like Ohio and Arizona, it was the residents who panned the move, eventually forcing their governors to cave in and put the expansion into place.
For every state that has expanded Medicaid, it has been a proven success. For those states with governors and legislatures still fighting it, those who are uninsured, under insured or ill are the ones paying the price. People are literally dying due to illness all because their income falls into the gap that is too high to obtain insurance under current state Medicaid rules, but they don’t earn enough to be able to afford full plans out of pocket. These are the people that would be covered under the expansion, and who it was created to help, but their own governors would rather score political points than let them live.
It’s this battle over destroying Obamacare that has the Drains caught in the middle. Linda, an epileptic, has always required medical care that has been covered by her insurance, which most recently has been covered by the state’s TennCare program, the low income Medicaid program for Tennessee. But her husband’s retirement income has just reached the point that now Linda no longer qualifies for TennCare’s Medicaid program, which cuts off at 75 percent of the federal poverty level for an adult, or roughly $721 in income a month per person, or $1082 for a couple.
For Linda to fall that far under the poverty line and get the medical coverage she needs, she and her husband Larry must live apart, with separate addresses, a feat that has been incredibly difficult not just emotionally but logistically for the couple. “Since January, she’s been living with her ailing mother and even spent time in a homeless shelter, while we look for subsidized housing cheap enough for her to afford with her $720 a month disability check,” wrote Larry. “The wait for government housing could be as long as five years and could require her to move 25 miles away — if we don’t find something soon, I may end up living out of my car while she stays in our old home.”
Larry has always cared for Linda through her illness, including monitoring her health, driving her to doctor’s appointments and around town, since her condition makes it impossible to obtain a driver’s license. Now, he is being forced to live apart from the woman he has loved for decades, simply to allow her to have the insurance coverage he needs to keep her alive.
Although he has contacted the Republican Governor Bill Haslam repeatedly to explain their case, which is similar to the many who are stuck in the coverage gap because of his refusal to expand Medicaid, Gov. Haslam has ignored Drain’s outreach. Meanwhile, the Governor has continued to forge ahead with his own plan to increase health insurance coverage for low income uninsured, which has been repeatedly rejected by the federal government due to its reliance on co-pays for care, totally negating the entire effort to make care more affordable in the first place.
While Gov. Haslam continues to broker with the federal government, people in his state suffer. More Tennesseans are forced to decide whether to go see a doctor when they are ill or hope that it will eventually magically get better. Uninsured continue to take risks with their own preexisting conditions, or make dramatic sacrifices to pay for whatever care they can scarcely afford.
And the Drains, after over 30 years as a couple, continue to live apart.
All it would take to fix this is for the Governor to approve the Medicaid expansion as is, and to use his influence to push legislators to vote in favor of their constituents needs. Sign here to support the Drains in this effort, and to help the Drains once again live together, just like every couple in love should be able to.
Linda and Larry Drain knew that starting a petition would be an easy, but effective, way to make a difference in their community. Do you need help with an issue in your own community? Start your own petition today.
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