When I married my wife Linda 33 years ago, I never imagined we would have to separate so she could access the life-saving medication and care she needs to stay healthy. Linda was born with epilepsy, and without constant medical care, her condition would quickly become deadly. For many years she qualified for TennCare, Tennesee’s Medicaid program — so imagine our shock when the Social Security office called us in and told us that my modest retirement fund pushed our income over the acceptable income limits, and Linda no longer qualified!
There was only one solution that would keep Linda alive: six months ago, we had to separate and establish different addresses so she could stay covered. 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. 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.
Because Governor Bill Haslam refused to accept Affordable Care Act funds to expand TennCare, we fall into what’s called the “coverage gap” — we don’t earn enough to take advantage of federal insurance subsidies, and we earn too much to qualify for TennCare, even though we live at the poverty level. We’re just two people out of more than 161,000 who can’t access affordable healthcare in Tennessee. There are countless other stories just like ours throughout the state.
I love my wife, and I want to be able to stay by her side. Because of her condition, Linda can’t work or even drive herself. Over the years I’ve taken her to the hospital and provided medical support during her seizures, which I can no longer do while living several miles away. If Linda has a medical emergency while I’m not there, she could die — and after 33 years together, being forced apart like this is heartbreaking for both of us.
Since May, I’ve written more than 50 letters to Gov. Haslam, asking to meet and talk about expanding TennCare. He hasn’t written back to any of them. I’m hoping that if we can get enough signatures, he’ll be forced to pay attention and listen! Please sign and share this petition asking Gov. Haslam to expand TennCare and let me move back in with my wife!