Judgmental and unkind statements make me feel irresponsible to be on Medicaid

October 4 | Guest post by Jodi
Vintage Flash Cards from HilltopTimes

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…

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… However, health insurance was a trickier situation. I looked into buying a plan and was sent to Medicaid because we qualified.

Even though I know with certainty this was the right decision for us, guilt, fear, shame and embarrassment smother me every day.

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, 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.

They are talking about me, but do they know that?

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. 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.

But 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 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.

I don't know the battles people are fighting privately. A nice house, a nice car, or an "everything is fine here" smile does 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.

Needing a hand up sometimes is a mostly universal human condition.

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.

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, okay? Let's show love by offering grace… maybe even some EXTRA grace.

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  1. I am so sorry for your loss, and that you now are made to feel you need to defend needing help. This kind of insurance should be a right, something you should be able to depend on without thought when you need it, not a privilege that makes you feel less than.

    Love to you. Fuck the haters.

    18 agree
  2. I grew up in a small community where most of the families were struggling (low income). I went to college and after a lot of hard work got a job where I didn't fit in. I was among a large group of privileged people who had no idea what it was like to struggle. My coworker made insensitive comments about people on Medicaid because the only people around them that she knew abused Medicaid. I argued with this person but realized, they will never know what it is like to struggle because they have never lived it. One day this person volunteered at a food bank and noticed the people being very humble and great full and we're not taking more than their share of food. They would grab the damaged food before anything else. She told them they didn't have to do that. I told her, these are my people. These are the people I know who are great full for help but who are humble and hardworking. Who didn't have someone or something who could help save them from the things that life dealt. Maybe this person will never really know what it's like to struggle and that's ok. The people who have struggled all their lives are my people. I think it makes me a stronger person and all I can do is work hard and hold my head high to inspire my people to keep going, and not to give up. It's hard and we need all the help we can get.

    6 agree
  3. Amen!

    We have supplemental Medicaid to help us cover the cost of healthcare for my twins. I have a good job with good health insurance yet we were still drowning in medical bills. Without it we wouldn't have been able to pay our portion (15%) of their $1,000,000 NICU bill. Or the 9 specialists they had to see every month for years. We use it to pay for my 6 year old daughters services that she receives through school. Yet the embarrassment and shame I feel whenever someone rants about paying for "lazy people's healthcare." Even the people who get it and understand our need have told us that we're different that our situation is somehow more deserving. Which makes me feel worse. Because unfortunately we're not unique and our situation is not somehow special. Bad things happen all the time and we're all deserving of help when we need it.

    4 agree
  4. I never had a mother care to make any kind of transition softer for me, that's why I think if you're doing what you have to do to make your kids still feel safe and still have meaning in this world after a tragedy , you're an awesome, really valuable person. And it seems that you're taking care of your own mental health too in the process – kuddos for self-care!
    I think all the self care and good (but hard) decisions you're doing NOW will reflect in a much stable quality of life in the future for all your family.

    My favourite scientist's wife (Arline Feynman) used to tell him "what do you care what other people think!" They don't know you and don't know your situation and noble fight in this moment. You deserve help from Medicaid and all available resources right now… and if someone comes in and judges you that's great, because now you know who to sweep off your life to keep in the healthy road!

    I truly hope writing this down and the comments helps you take that worry about others out of your mind because you, wonderful person, already have a lot going on. And it will get better 🙂 love.

    6 agree
  5. Honestly, fuck those people. I would be on Medicaid if I qualified for it, because life is fuckin' hard and difficult to afford and sometimes, you struggle- and you have waaay better reasons than me. This is what it is there for – and as you said, it's something you and your husband paid into your whole lives, for just this reason: so it would be there for you and others like you if it was ever needed <3

    6 agree
    • Nevermind that pretty much every other 1st world country has universal health care and our government SHOULD be providing it for all of us…..grumble grumble

      12 agree
  6. First of all, I am sorry for your loss. You should not be made to feel ashamed for being on medicaid. Other countries have medical access for ALL of their citizens and they are not shamed for seeking medical help.

    I am also on medicaid right now though my situation is different. I moved to a place where me and my child will have better opportunities and am starting up a business. I will get a second (maybe even third) job and if I can get medical through it, I will. COBRA is extremely expensive and I know very few people who can afford it. Insurance not sponsored by a corporation is also prohibitively expensive and unaffordable (this is changing somewhat with Obamacare but not completely). I don't feel ashamed because the way I look at it: (1) EVERYONE should have access to medical care & be able to seek medical attention without going bankrupt, (2) I have paid taxes for over 30 years so, in essence, I have "paid for insurance" and (3) I do not plan on living in this country when I retire so I would lose all the social security I have paid in (not to mention, who knows if anyone will get the social security they paid into).

    You did pay into these systems when you were working. Even if you did start up a new career, after being a stay-at-home mom you might still need the medicaid because it is hard to jump right back into the workforce at a decent wage. I applaud you for taking the time for you and your children to heal. Shame on anyone who makes you feel bad for this!

    4 agree
  7. You absolutely should not feel guilty or ashamed. Every time you do I want you to remember what I'm about to tell you.
    I would say that easily 25% of all the people I've ever worked with are useless and not worth the money they're paid. Also it's been my experience that the more useless somebody is, the more self-important they are. So when these over-privileged assholes take the opportunity to discuss their self-righteous feelings about the "welfare queens" draining our society, I like to calmly reflect on just how much of their salary I consider to be "charity".
    And you should too. Every time somebody berates you ( even indirectly ), know that there's a good chance all they're doing is showing up every day to a job they never deserved and collecting a paycheck.

    3 agree
  8. I am sorry for your loss, and I am very sorry the American system is so rigged.
    You sound like a great mom, and I sincerely wish you and your children well.

    3 agree
  9. Thank you so much for writing this. I felt exactly the same way when I needed food stamps – I'd also had a large change in my life's circumstances and needed the service for a short time. I'd moved across the country, and my then-husband had immediately gone to jail (and cheated on me a bunch). I lost my job when my employer tried to have sex with me and I refused, and I had to move in a matter of days when my landlord also sexually harassed me. I had no job, no friends where I lived, no family, and no type of support structure for myself. Forget health insurance – I just needed enough food to live while I searched for a new job! I ended up finding a job an hour away, that could give me 3 hours a day of work at $11 per hour. That's 2 hours of driving for 3 hours of work, but I did it… until I was in a motorcycle accident (my primary method of travel to avoid the traffic that would have taken an extra hour each way) that prevented me from driving.

    The system also failed me. I submitted my renewal paperwork FIVE TIMES, and they "lost" or "didn't receive" the paperwork each time, even when I delivered it in person. Eventually, I had a day where I was late to work because I'd spent over 5 hours waiting for my social worker (and barely made it to work, had to press them to move quickly because I needed to leave), and I decided to just let my benefits lapse and eat less (and less healthy – no fresh veggies etc.; that shit is expensive).

    I was so ashamed to use that card at the grocery store. I heard the sighs, saw the eye rolls, saw people looking at what I'd put on the belt. I avoided looking at the cashiers. And I saw posts from Midwest friends bashing social services, calling everyone who uses them freeloaders, saying everyone should just "figure it out", because everyone has hard times.

    Sorry, fuck that. I paid into this system by working since I was 15 years old. I used it as it was meant to be used, and did all the right things (though ultimately they didn't end up working out, because of the incompetence on the other end). I used the services available to me to "bootstrap" my way out of it – people love to brag about how they did everything "with no help" – but sorry folks, that's simply not true. You had help. You were born into a certain class or lifestyle, you were born able-bodied, or of sound mental health that needs no treatment, or of a certain race. You have a family that can help out in those times, or you marry well, or whatever. Nobody does ANYTHING without help.

    Thank you for posting this. The whole attitude against social services makes me so mad, and as someone above said, I'm so grateful to see that you're prioritizing mental health care for yourself and your children as well – I had no way to cope with my horrible depression in this time (now I am medicated and feeling wonderful!!), and wish I would have looked at Medicaid as well as an option.

    We're with you, and you deserve every bit of this and more. If I could hug you right now I would.

    4 agree
  10. I am disabled and I receive SSDI benefits, along with Medicare Part A/D and Medicaid (Mass Health). It's to a point where I've culled my Facebook "friends" list and have unfollowed most of my conservative relatives because I can't handle people making comments about those who receive "welfare". I don't understand why these people will make comments like "support our troops and veterans!" and "why are we helping other countries when we have homeless people here?"… because on a different side of the same coin they don't want to offer help to people because HEAVEN FORBID a minority takes more than their "fare share" (whatever that is). There is this awful stereotype that people who receive these kinds of services don't want to work and are having multiple kids to remain eligible; etc. I don't think most people realize that a vast majority of people receiving these benefits are disabled or elderly – so you're telling me you want to cut these services because there are a few bad apples? Nope. I'm so sorry you feel guilt for being on Medicare and I offer solidarity because I feel that guilt as well. Here's hoping the mindset in the States will change so that this isn't the case for either of us.

    3 agree
    • It's strange – they want to cut social services because of a few bad apples, but those same voters don't want to cut gun accessibility because of a few bad apples. Like, come on, which is worse?

      2 agree
  11. As a European, I'm extremely baffled about the whole healthcare system in the US.
    It doesn't get better as I learn more details about it…

    1 agrees

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