Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I remember this

There are a lot of things going on in my head (and my life!) right now.  Most of them have to do with disappointment at my current lack of permanent work; I'm working per diem at the homeless shelter, with no benefits and no guaranteed hours at a significantly lower hourly rate than I had before.  There is just very little work available at the kind of job I have had for the past five years, which forces me to apply for jobs that I am dreadfully overqualified for or in a completely different field.  The salaries at these jobs are similar to the salaries I had ten years ago, before I had any degrees (or the debt I incurred getting them).  Hence the disappointment.

And I was reminded this week of how much work is involved in being poor.  An example:

I reluctantly went back on this state's version of Medicaid, because I can't be without medical coverage or I will have pre-existing conditions that will keep me from *ever* getting covered treatment for the moderately serious health issue I've been dealing with for the past few years.

This state insurance became effective December 1.  Let me first say that I am incredibly grateful to have this option, as I have already racked up almost $8k in medical bills over the last six months, and that was *with* the insanely expensive insurance coverage from my last job.

I saw my doctor yesterday, and she gave me a refill on a couple of prescriptions, which I dropped off at my local chain pharmacy.  When I returned to pick it up several hours later, they told me that they couldn't fill my prescription because the state insurance system thinks that I have another form of insurance that needs to be billed first.  This insurance ended 11/30, which I did tell my caseworker at DHHS, but no matter, accidents happen, and this information was not entered in the state system.  What I needed to do, they told me, was call the Medicaid system and have them correct the problem.  I paid cash for one urgently needed prescription and went home.

I called Medicaid today during a 15 minute break at my per diem job.  I spent a long time on hold and eventually spoke with someone who said that they could correct the error, but some computer irregularity means that it can take several days for their system to update with the information.  If I gave the pharmacist another 1-800 number to call they could verify my coverage and I could get my prescription filled.  I was only five minutes late back to work.

After work, I returned to the pharmacy and spent a solid 5 minutes trying to explain the situation to the very harried pharmacist.  She called the number and spent a long time on hold with the system. I went and picked up a couple of other items at the store while she was waiting on hold.  Back at the counter, Harried Pharmacist told me that she was eventually able to verify my coverage, but that now they had to actually fill my prescription, and I would have to return later in the day to pick it up.

I went and did some errands (picked out the cutest tiny Xmas tree for our apartment, actually--super deal at $12) and went back to the pharmacy and picked up my prescription, which she'd had to break into *two* prescriptions due to the slightly odd dosage the doc had given me.  Total cost was $6, which was much more reasonable than the $45 I'd had to pay under my old insurance plan, and the for-now-insurmountable hundred-odd I would have had to pay if I'd been without insurance.

But add onto that the time I spent on four trips to the pharmacy and calls during my only work break, and it gets frustrating.  If I'd been working full time all of those trips and calls would have taken days to accomplish, or would have required time off from work.  That's not even counting the initial 3 hour trip to DHHS to have my eligibility evaluated or the small mountain of paperwork I had to mail in after the eligibility assessment.

None of this is anyone's fault.  The caseworker, the pharmacist, the state computer system are all functioning to the best of their ability I'm sure.  They are working, like me, with few resources and many many needs.

And let me reiterate: I am grateful that this option exists. Without it I would have to give up this medication entirely, which would leave me in a terrible situation for sure.  Because of where I work, I can't help but imagine what it feels like for someone with little education (which makes it very difficult to speak with bureaucrats & professionals, all of whom have their own language) or no access to a car or phone, or just a low tolerance for frustration.  And even I, with all of my education and experience and my car and my phone and my job, am expending great effort to do something that is easier for people with more resources.

This is what it means to be poor.

1 comment:

mel said...

I hear you. I had MaineCare back in my late teens and early 20s and it was always such a hassle. Now I'm trying to reach Maine Unemployment to find out my eligibility determination. I think they were concerned about the fact that the spouse I moved to follow is in fact my same-sex spouse. Grrr.

Hang in there.