Last week, I opened a piece of mail from the Oregon Department of Human Services. These are the folks who have been keep my family alive for the past several months. Without their valuable service and support, we would be in a world of hurt – deep weeds, so to speak. So, I am very grateful, and try very hard to keep abreast of the various communications I receive from them. The letter I opened however, was a bit disconcerting.
The citizens of Oregon, with help from Federal taxpayers, through the Oregon DHS, have been providing us with just enough assistance to get by during this trying time. The unemployment insurance checks amount to just a little over $1800 a month (more on this in a minute), we receive food assistance, through the Oregon Trail EBT program, that covers $200 of our monthly food bill; and in addition, our kids get full medical insurance coverage, and The Wife and I have been receiving basic coverage – which we pay $36 a month for.
A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to reapply for the Oregon Health Plan insurance program. They just want to keep tabs on their enrollees, and make sure our financial/income status hasn’t changed. Just a formality, I was told. However, last week, when I opened the mail, there was a form letter informing us that Jennifer and I are no longer eligible for the program. I was confused.
It took me a few minutes to wrap my brain around this…
When I called our caseworker, she explained it to me like this:
- They look at a two-month income average.
- Because May has five weeks, we will make too much money on unemployment this time.
- The cut-off is $1800 – during April and May, our average is just over that.
- Though the kids are still enrolled, Jennifer and I are not.
It took me a few minutes to wrap my brain around this. How could a family of four, whose only income is unemployment insurance, make too much money to qualify for Medicaid? Apparently it’s because of the five-week month, and the cut-off income level.
I asked our case-worker, a real helpful lady by the name of Theresa – actually everyone in the St. Helens office has been very helpful, and very nice – I asked her what would happen if I skipped a couple of weeks of unemployment checks. Would that allow us to keep health insurance? There was a pause on the phone, then I heard fingers on a calculator. Obviously she’d never been asked this question before.
By skipping two weeks of unemployment checks, it would mean a loss of just under $900 to our family. However, besides being treated for a serious internal infection and being on antibiotics for the past three weeks, I am scheduled for further testing and treatment with a specialist. I wondered if losing $800+ wouldn’t be better than losing insurance. In addition, our out-of-pocket prescription costs would be around $200 a month.
I went in to talk to my specialist on Thursday, and after some discussion, he assured me that it would be probably best to take the unemployment, and not worry about the insurance. He gave me paperwork for more blood-work, and sent me on my way. The lab results will come back later this week, after our insurance expires tonight.
At least my kids are covered.
Also tomorrow, the moratorium on our mortgage expires. We have been trying to work with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage since last August, to try and find a way to lower payments, adjust the loan and/or interest rate, and to keep our house. A couple of months ago, they “allowed” a moratorium on making payments. As of tomorrow, we will owe in excess of $14,000 in back payments. They’ve made it clear, that without an income, other than unemployment, they are unwilling to work with us.
I tried to explain, that if I had a job, we wouldn’t need their help. But that seems irrelevant to the discussion.
It appears their formulas are based on two-income families. But it has been shown, time and again, that two-income families are really no better off than single-income families. In addition, we have no other debts. We don’t owe on credit cards, both our cars are paid off (and old), and we don’t owe anyone any money – except for our house.
“They can’t refuse to treat you,” they say.
It’s at this point that some of my friends would tell me to not worry about not having medical expenses. “They can’t refuse to treat you,” they say. But that doesn’t mean they won’t come after us for the money. I’ve been paying $5 a month on an old doctor’s bill from last year. In the meantime, they’ve been charging me $3 a month in late charges. At this rate, I’ll be paying on this bill when my kids are in college!
Currently, the infection I’m being treated for has no symptoms. I will take the last of the prescribed antibiotics later this week. If it is more than an infection – say, a tumor, I am not scheduled for any further tests to detect it. This isn’t something they can deal with at the urgent care clinic. However, it is something a man of my age should be concerned about.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m NOT complaining. But we are concerned – it’s unknown territory.
Very soon, probably in the next seven to ten days, I will have my Oregon Paramedic certification in hand. This will allow me to work as a paramedic in Oregon – and resume my role as a contributor to the tax roles, not a drain on the system. I don’t feel guilty about receiving aid, as I’ve been contributing since I was 11 years old. And my Dad, as a small business owner, surely contributed more than enough over time.
In addition, I’m going to OHSU tomorrow, to meet with an old friend and see about doing some research work in emergency medicine.
The next two weeks should be filled with interesting developments. We may, or may not lose our house. I may, or may not have some horrible, bankrupting disease. I may, or may not return to the active workforce.
This is why we pray – we are at peace. It’s not our battle. We’ve turned it over to our God. We are living the abundant life!