It’s Not Political, It’s Personal…WE Are On Medicaid

June 29, 2017

There’s been something weighing heavy on my heart for months now. I haven’t shared it with you because I have been worried it would appear political. It’s not political. It’s personal. And because it’s part of my struggle after loss, I’m nervously going to be transparent about this, too. So I’m saying a big prayer, closing my eyes and with a big gulp, am about to reveal a very personal thing. I pray you’ll read this with an open mind and an extra grace-filled heart when I confess to you that MY family is on Medicaid.

When I married my husband, I was able to quit my job and become a stay-at-home Mom. My husband became our family’s sole income. He worked so hard and took great pride in providing for us. It was his salary that paid our bills and allowed us decent health insurance. He was a PhD and brought home a good income. We lived comfortably. I recognized this privilege while living it and was beyond grateful for it.

Years later when he became ill, a lot of our money was spent on medications, at-home health services, medical bills and special equipment. We adjusted, but watched with fear as our savings depleted. Being sick costs a lot of money, but we were managing.

After he died, there was no more income from his job. There was no more health insurance. Because he worked so hard for so many years, there was Social Security survivor benefits available for us, something not all people qualify for. I was grateful for that. Because his income was good, we were able to live comfortably, with adjustments, on this new, reduced income. However, health insurance was a trickier situation. I looked into buying a plan and was sent to Medicaid because we qualified.

I could have continued the coverage we had, but the COBRA premium was more than our new monthly income. Sure, I could have immediately tried to find a new career after caring for my husband and children for over a decade, but my kids were facing so many new, scary changes like transitioning to public school and trying to regulate their own grief emotions. I knew they needed me. They needed me to be there before and after school. They needed me to be the one taking them to their frequent counseling appointments. They needed me. They needed SOMETHING in their lives to stay the same, to stay consistent, stable and secure.

Even though I know with certainty this was the right decision for us… guilt, fear, shame and embarrassment smother me every day. I listen to people who don’t know our full situation make callous, judgmental and unkind statements about Medicaid and the people on it. It seems many people view Medicaid recipients as lazy, manipulating-the-system types. And that makes me feel sad and ashamed. It makes me feel less than. It makes me wonder… Is that who we are now? Are we suddenly bad, lazy and immoral members of society because we found ourselves in a difficult, life-changing situation?

My husband and I both worked for years paying into systems like Medicaid with each paycheck. And yet the opinions I can’t help but hear make me feel wrong to be relying on it if even for a temporary period of time as I try to move forward after loss. The spoken and unspoken but inferred judgment makes me feel irresponsible to be on Medicaid while I work hard to try to build a career that will one day, God-willing, allow us to buy affordable private insurance. It makes me feel shameful to have an iPhone and a minivan and a safe home while being on Medicaid, even though all of these things were acquired long before my husband’s death.

On TV, in the newspapers, on social media, and in overheard conversations at the store, I feel the judgment. They are talking about me, but do they know that? Are we the family they imagine when they throw mean-spirited words around? Are we the family that comes to their minds when they blame “poor people without jobs” for driving up their health care premiums? Are we the people that disgust them for being on Medicaid while driving a decent car or using an iPhone?

I didn’t ask for my husband to become ill. I didn’t ask for the level of in-home care he required to NOT be covered by insurance. I didn’t ask to be an unpaid, full-time caregiver for years. I didn’t wish for my kids and I to require frequent counseling. And I didn’t hope that one day we would be a family of four instead of five, living off a small fraction of what we once did. But this is what happened after my husband died. This is our new reality. And Medicaid is there for us. And so, as difficult as it is, we opted to rely on this safety net for now, while we heal, plan and work hard for a better future.

I know we aren’t alone; after all, nearly 70 million Americans rely on Medicaid. That’s one in five people! In fact, Medicaid is the largest insurer in the country. Some Medicaid recipients are old, some are young, some disabled, and some had the financial wind knocked out of them and are trying to figure out how to rebuild their lives. I don’t know their stories, and I try not to assume I do. But I know they have one.

What I want you all to know is that I’m not lazy. I’m not intentionally “milking the system.” I am trying my best to rebuild our lives. I’m working very hard to “pull myself up by my bootstraps” but that takes time. I am taking necessary steps available to care for my family’s financial, physical, emotional and spiritual needs. I recognize the privilege in this, as I’m sure there are other families that can’t pay all of their bills with survivor benefits. In fact, I’m sure some don’t even qualify for them. They have no choice in their scenario. That is why I pray one day I’ll be able to sponsor one of these families to help soften the blow… to give them a month or two to regroup and heal. I’m a LONG way from that goal, but I pray about that and think about them daily. I want to help them find a little security they may not otherwise have.

But right now I’m not feeling very secure myself. Being a widow Mom has devastating effects on self-confidence. There are so many fears to battle every day as I try to make the best choices for my kids and myself. Self-worth has taken a hit and worry often prevails over faith. On top of the usual worries, I now worry about Medicaid. What will we do if it is taken from us? What about my son’s pre-existing condition? Will he be able to get his meds? Will we be able to afford his meds? Will they still be able to go to counseling? Who will care for them before and after school and at what cost financially? What employer will allow me to take so much time off for appointments and calls and meetings from the school? These things are constantly swirling through my mind every single day. I am re-evaluating my options constantly. And still, at this time, I come back to what we are doing right now is the very best thing for us. It isn’t permanent, but it’s the best thing for the right now as we continue to heal and work on reconstructing our life.

I don’t know the battles people are fighting privately. A nice house, a nice car, or an “everything is fine here” smile do not always reveal a wounded heart, paralyzing fear or disabling insecurity. I don’t know if divorce, illness, abuse, grief or job loss is happening in their lives. It would be wrong of me to make assumptions or judgments, although I’m sure I’m sometimes guilty of it. And it’s for sure not giving people extra grace if I make these judgments.

I know first hand how life can change in an instant. I have learned how one event can leave you devastated emotionally, physically and/or financially. I have learned no one is exempt from being in a situation where help and grace is required. I’ve learned how the cruelty of this life does not discriminate. And that is why I wish we’d love each other more with understanding, kindness, encouragement and support instead of judgment, blame, shame, hurtful words and cruel assumptions. Needing a hand up sometimes is a mostly universal human condition.

We ALL need extra grace. Every day, but especially when this world knocks us down. Let’s do our best to give this gift to one another, ok? Let’s show love by offering grace….maybe even some EXTRA grace.

Jodi

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16 Comments

  • Reply Patricia Douglas June 29, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    Hi Jodi
    My heart goes out to you and your family. It’s so very sad that a lot of people will loose their health benefits.I had Cobra when my job closed
    up.And now I’m on Medicare,I can no longer work because of the blood clot that I had.And then I lost the tips of two toes and the insurance that I had then didn’t cover all of my bills.Which meant I had to pay them.Did this make me happy no it didn’t. I worry about Medicare if that is going to get cut too.And I need my medicine.My snythorid is $110.00 for three months.
    I can only afford to get a month at a time.My other medications are generic
    But I worry a lot about this. I’m just saying I know how you feel. But I do believe that everything will work out for us. And don’t worry about what others think.For we have no control over their thoughts.
    Stay strong and know that I will be there for you.
    Love you and your family ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  • Reply Anne June 29, 2017 at 6:13 pm

    Jodi,
    Bless you for having the courage to write your story. You make excellent points. Health challenges are not allocated on a rational basis by the “left hand if God.”. We need a health care financing system that is rational and that does not shame those who already have challenges enough.

    I am 69 and my husband died of cardiac arrest three years ago. I subscribe to your blog and I admire your courage in sharing this and other aspects of the challenges of widowhood in your blog posts.

    Wishing you comfort.
    Anne

  • Reply Rod Snavely June 29, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I wish I could take away all the embarrassment and guilt you have regarding your use of Medicaid. Your story is one that underlines the need for our healthcare system to be revamped so that NO ONE needs to worry, feel guilt or be embarrassed. Again thank you for sharing. Grace and Peace to you.

  • Reply Cathy June 29, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    Hold your head high, your family is your first priority. Our savior promises to provide for us, and I pray your situation improves that you find ways to face each obstacle one day at a time. You are making a difference in this world by encouraging others, by letting us know our grief is real and only those who walk this difficult road can even begin to understand. There are many factors that contribute to our broken, overpriced medical care and it will not be easy or quick to fix. I pray our govenment has the wisdom to find solutions.

  • Reply Cindy Doll June 29, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Jody, I am so sorry you feel embarrassed and guilty. I lost my husband 7 years ago this coming September. He was t-boned by a logging truck. With it, went his income, and soon afterwards, I lost my job as well. I struggled for months, juggling bills, praying that I wouldn’t get sick.
    I went back to school at the ripe old age of 57, graduating two years later with my associate’s degree. We had insurance through the state of Minnesota, and had to go through all the motions many times to get covered again. As I write this today, I too, am on “Medicaid”, and grateful for it. I found a job four months after graduating, stayed there for almost three years, went on a trip last summer with my 2 daughters and my 3 grandchildren, came back and was let go.
    I was on unemployment or 7 months and when that ended this past February, I feared I’d become homeless. I searched and searched for many months, and finally am working part-time at our local technical college. When I finally hit 60, I was eligible for Social Security widow’s benefits. Of course, when one is working, they penalize you and you can only make so much. So, for 6 months out of the year, I was trying to survive on my work income. And, to add fuel to the embers, my youngest daughter and her children came to live with me. All throughout this, I was on Medicaid and to this day, I still am.
    So, please don’t brow-beat yourself. I am past the point in my life to worry what others may “think, say, gossip” about me either to my face or behind my back. I don’t think I’d be where I am today if it weren’t for Medicaid as my insurance. You and I and thousands of others are not manipulating the system, we are certainly NOT lazy, and just like you, I am also trying to pull myself up on those proverbial boot straps.
    Thank you for baring your soul, for letting others know the struggles of becoming a widow so suddenly. I never once dreamed that my Bill wouldn’t come home from work that day. It haunts me always.

  • Reply Eileen Boggess June 29, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    Thank you for your post. You and your family are amazing!

  • Reply Karen Underdahl June 29, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    Jodi,
    I read your message, and no don’t feel like you are doing anything wrong! You are not! You are making the best of a very challenging and difficult siutation. Things will get better in time, you need to do what you must do to keep your family moving forward if that means Medicaid right now that is what you must do. I think of you so often and wish I could do more. Still trying to get around, I hear comments that it will take til fall of Christmas to heal. I certainly do not want to hear that. I hope it isn’t true. Sometimes people are not as encouraging as they could be! Right? I know you know exactly what I mean. I think of you often, hang in there. Love and prayers always, Karen and Lynn

  • Reply Debbie June 29, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    Not for one second should you feel shame!!!! As Americans we shouldn’t have to worry about healthcare. We pay enough in taxes and not just from a job. Shame on our government that they send millions and millions of our American monies to other countries just to buy their favor. Take a small portion of OUR money and cover our medical needs. The US government should feel shame, NOT US!
    My husband took care of our insurance through his job, that is, until Pancreatic Cancer struck. We would have lost everything without Obamacare (Covered Ca here in California) and I would be without medical insurance today. Sadly, my husband is gone now, but I am here and can feed myself and have a small savings that I would not have without the support of my country. It’s NOT a handout, we both worked our whole lives and paid for medical insurance from he day we were born. Stand proud and do not apologize for what should be our right as a citizen of one of the richest countries in the world.
    Shame on anyone who would judge you or how you survive. Ignorance is no excuse to judge.

  • Reply Jan June 29, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    Not for a second should you feel shame for being on Medicaid. It is for this exact situation. Your story is perfect for those who haven’t personally known one on medicaid. Sorry you feel judgement but thanks for sharing so those judging might have a change of heart by being better informed.

  • Reply Jeanie Martin June 29, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    Good grief girl!! That’s why we have medicaid for situations like yours. Keep that head up high. You have NOTHING to be hiding or ashamed about. Think about all the money you paid out in the years you both worked. By the way, beautifully worded. You are an excellent communicator.

  • Reply Shirley Shelbourn June 29, 2017 at 10:56 pm

    Ditto to Jeanie the last person commenting. The reason people feel about Medicaid like they do is because many people abuse it. I feel it is for you at this time and I know you will be happy to get off if and when the time comes. I too lost my husband but after our kids were grown. I can imagine how much worse it would be raising a family by yourself. Take care of yourself and your kids and may God give you extra Grace as one goes off to college. Another big adjustment. You hit the nail on the head with your writings about grief.

  • Reply Dorothy J Wright June 29, 2017 at 11:43 pm

    This was so moving to me! You should feel no shame for being on Medicaid. Do what is best for you and your family while you need to. People who have not been there may not understand. I know the feeling of having the income stop suddenly and not knowing how long it will take to have the money there when you need it. Hold you head up high and don’t listen to what people are saying.

    I find myself saying “extra grace required” to people, and myself frequently. It means a lot to have you share and let yourself go with people who care.

    Dorothy

  • Reply janet queckboerner June 30, 2017 at 8:45 am

    Jodi. Tbis is beautiful
    I too understand your feeling. My son,age 30 broke his neck last year and is now a quadriplegic. He has to be on medicaid at this point and talk this talk of cuts affects the ones that like you are not milking the system. This is the only way to survive. I appreciate your blog and honesty. Illpray for you and your family on this journey.

  • Reply Kathy Birmingham July 1, 2017 at 10:03 am

    Jodi,
    This is the problem in this country – division. And until people go through something themselves or it affects their family members, many think they are paying for others to take advantage of the “system.” These safety nets are there for a reason. Whether Medicaid, food stamps, or even public assistance, the majority of people use these as a temporary “hand up” until they can find a job or figure out their circumstances. And what about those with disabilities and/or pre-existing illnesses? What would people like them to do?
    My family has had to use some of these programs in the past. And now, my husband has passed away. Luckily, I already had a decent job, but it’s still an emotional, mental and financial blow. Don’t let others determine your self-worth. It’s enough to have to deal with all of the things that you and your family are going through. There are more good people in this world than you realize, but the headlines make us think the opposite.
    Best of luck to you, Jodi. Blessings.

  • Reply Robin Reid July 1, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    Jodi,
    From one widow to another I completely understand how you feel. My husband passed almost 11 years ago and I still have not found a new normal. My boys were 13 and 18 then and after 4 months of being off of work, attending therapy and trying to learn a new organized way to do things at home, I tried to go back to work. After 3 weeks, I found myself in the hospital, on the Psych floor with PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder and Dissociative Amnesia AKA a nervous breakdown AKA what your brain does when the stress gets to a level that your body is no longer capable of maintaining the systems of your body in a state of homeostasis. I eventually went and am still on disability and Medicare. Yes, people make you feel like a second class citizen for doing so. My husband and I collectively paid into the Social Security/Medicare system over the 56 years we worked collectively and I feel entitled to draw on what we paid into. While I feel entitled and am entitled, I too, am still made to feel like I am getting something I don’t deserve. After all people lose spouses everyday, Right? Yes, they do but not all people grieve and mourn the same way or for only certain periods of time. I wish I could tell you that people will eventually understand and ‘act better’ toward you after a certain period of time but that would be a lie. Keep close those friends and family that ‘get it” as others who have never walked in your shoes will never truly attempt to understand the need you have to use services that have been provided for people in our situation for a reason. As we well know, life is too short to give those folks our precious time. Being a mother and a father to children who have lost a parent is truly a full-time job. Bless you and praying for you and your children.

  • Reply Kathy July 3, 2017 at 6:58 am

    I don’t have the words to express how I feel about your posting. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to get from one day to another. I have found your postings to be so encouraging to me and I have not suffered the loses that you have.
    Thank you for your willingness to share your personal life and feelings that give so much hope to others. Blessings to you and your family.

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