A Phone Call With A Medicaid Case Worker


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This particular post highlights a specific telephone encounter I had a few days ago with my Medicaid case worker.  Read on it’s own, it should frustrate you, but if you read it after my article, “I Had Not Idea How Much Medicaid Would Cost me,” published Monday by The Establishment, it will probably infuriate you even more—as it did me.

A few days ago I called my Social Services case worker because documents to renew my Medicaid, which were supposed to arrive last month, still had not arrived.  Surprisingly, she answered (normally I leave a message and have to wait for a call back).

I let her know, in a professional and in-charge manner, why I was phoning, because often the people who work at Social Services are accustomed to treating their clients as sub-human idiots who are almost certainly at fault for whatever issue they’re experiencing.

She listened to my question and then began checking to find out why my documents for my Medicaid review and renewal had not been sent out.  After a few moments, she informed me that the reason was due to the type of plan I was on.  She told me when I applied I did not check the box stating that I wanted to participate in the “Plan First” Medicaid program, which covers women’s health.  Therefore, I would have to entirely reapply for Medicaid—which meant jumping through all the hoops I jumped through less than a year ago.

Her response confused me for several reasons.  1. When we’d spoken the month before, she’d told me I would receive my renewal paperwork shortly and had made no mention of an entirely new application process; 2. at my last six month review, which included an expected, brief coverage lapse while they verified my spenddown, my policy was reinstated without any issues; 3. I couldn’t figure out why I would ever have checked “no” to Plan First, or, for that matter, how the capable Medicaid personnel who assisted me at my treatment facility would have missed that detail if that particular box was critical for me to continue qualifying for healthcare during my stem cell transplant treatment and recovery.

When I responded saying as much, she simply quipped, “That’s the best I can do,” that I needed to check “yes” for “Plan First” on my entirely new application when completing it, and was then about to hang up on me.  I quickly spoke up, “I am a stem cell transplant recovery patient, and I worked with the hospital’s Medicaid office last year to ensure I got all of this taken care of in order to save my life.”  I added that it made no sense why I would have failed to check “yes” to women’s healthcare, especially if it was key to my receiving Medicaid.

She reluctantly started digging further into the computer system when suddenly she commented that she could see where I had checked “yes” next to “Plan First” (ironically, a minute later I absentmindedly took out a letter from a pile of mail, and it contained my “Plan First” card).  After a little more research, she mused, confusedly trailing off, “I don’t understand why…”  She started to blame their new system overhaul for the reason the mistakes were made—after initially trying to blame me for not filling out something properly (since the client is always at fault, and the system is always right).  She added that she was “very glad” I had called in.

At the end of the conversation, after she’d informed me what to expect in the mail, I took another stand for myself letting her know that I was very aware that she’d tried to pin their/her mistakes on me, and, if I had not spoken up, Social Services would have put me through an entirely unnecessary and stressful process because their system failed and she, assuming it was my error, wasn’t going to investigate further.

The system is flawed, and the people who work in it are so cynical and jaded that, if you are going to makes heads or tails of it, you have to know what you are doing—or at the very least you have to stand up for yourself when they start to bulldoze over you and demand they do their part.  The worst element is, the system is so complex and confusing that even the people who work in it don’t always understand it, which results in people falling through the cracks and not receiving adequate (or any) assistance.  Also, it’s drastically underfunded for the needs of the people it has to meet.

I add this only because mid-terms are next week: please, please consider Medicaid and other welfare programs when you vote.  Don’t believe that cutting funding to these programs will solve the national debt.  By helping people live, access healthcare, and get back on their feet (I’d bet money most people don’t want to receive government assistance), we are doing so much more for the greater good of our country than by taking money away from these programs and the people who need them.  Plus, you never know, you might need one of these programs one day.

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Change Your Thinking, Change Your World

Over the past few weeks I’ve had my tone and communication approach mentioned or alluded to on several occasions.  As a human, my defenses wanted to go up, and they did to an extent, but I tried my best to take notice and examine the way I speak and interact with people, whether in person or on social media.

A couple of years ago I was invited to contribute to a blog with the goal of sharing in a kind but firm manner about the issues surrounding racial issues, privilege, and the way these topics contribute to a lot of negative events and divides in the United States.  I remember one of my editor’s critiquing me on my tone in a particular piece, essentially reminding me that “you get more flies with honey than with lemons.”

Due to my health circumstances, my primary mode of communication over the past two years has been technological and through social media.  It can be easy to get into word battles, forgetting the person on the other end of the conversation is more than that one point you’re arguing and, more than that, they are also human with a soul and feelings.  Therefore, with all the synchronistic reminders about how I come across to people, I am making a deliberate effort to check my words, speak kindly (but firmly, when necessary), but to also remain true to what I believe, even on hard issues.

A few mornings ago I entered into a conversation with a family member about a political meme they shared.  I care about this person a lot, and I want to facilitate good conversation when we speak because our relationship goes far beyond a Facebook chat.  We were able to have a constructive, cordial, and engaged discussion that ended on a very positive note.  Additionally, it left me considering what I had said, how I had said it, and if there was more I could have added to improve on what I’d said.

Like most people, I think, I continued mulling over certain aspects of what we’d said, trying to think of what my next response would have been, had we continued the discussion—which ultimately began addressing freedoms that we have in the United States, whether real, perceived, or mythical, particularly regarding money and how we spend it.

For instance, how many people are actually able to campaign to become politicians compared to those who would like to based solely on financial ability?  And would campaign spending limits fix this?  I know in the United Kingdom there are spending limits for referendum votes, like for Brexit (I don’t know if they limit candidate campaign spending).  I took the perspective that spending limits would make a positive impact on our political system because it would take some of the power away from the 1% and large corporations and give it back to “the people.”  My family member took the position that if we start to limit freedom in one area there is the danger it will spread into other areas, too.

I understand that concern.  I appreciate and value the freedoms that I have because of my citizenship, race, gender (in Western culture, because even with the hurdles I may face as a woman, other parts of the world are significantly worse), socioeconomic status, etc.  But, what happens to people who don’t have those same privileges?  I am by no means a wealthy person, but all of my needs are met.  Could I go out, campaign for office, and get elected?  Maybe at a local level (which is where we really need to invest our energy, by the way!), but without the right connections to people with money and influence, I would be hard pressed to go to a higher level.

The conversation flowed from the political curtailing of spending to the personal ability to spend, and whether or not either one of us would like someone telling us how we could spend our money if we were one of the lucky few to be exorbitantly wealthy.  Shortly after, busyness of the day caused our conversation to close, but I continued pondering the question and different factors over the course of the next few days (hence this blog post).

I agree that there is a potential danger to limiting freedoms, because when one is sacrificed, it’s that much easier to continue removing others one at a time.  In fact, I would argue we are already at that place, but it’s been done in such a way that many people don’t see it—for instance, the Presidential Alert that most cell phones in the U.S. received last week.  Those alerts mean the government has accessed all of our cell phone numbers from our cell phone companies and can reach and/or surveil us that much more easily.

Remember Edward Snowden?  He’s in Russia because he called out the NSA for illegal collection of data on Americans.  If that doesn’t mean anything to you, watch this great episode from John Oliver as he explains why that should massively freak all of us out!

Moving on…

So, while I get the concern (fear) of the slippery-slope of losing freedom, I have to jump to a different perspective from which to see the concept of spending and money (the semi-original topic).  The “American Dream (myth)”, while perhaps originally rooted in the idea of leaving someplace for a better life, has historically set up the majority of Americans (even today) to believe that anyone can do anything if they work hard enough, and what I earn is mine to use as I please without concern for anyone else (I recognize it’s a very black and white statement for a complex issue, but I’m trying to not write a book.  Feel free to email if you want to discuss further.)

This (predominantly) American mentality has created a selfish society that values personal, monetary worth over the good of humanity.  Of course, many who read that sentence will think, “Not me!  I give _____ amount to such-and-such a charity or religious organization,” or “I gave that homeless person $5 last week,” and while those are good things, it misses the core problem: that while giving to those causes we consider “worthy”, in the very next breath we criticize those who are in need or policies that could help make the playing field more equal if we feel our personal income and accumulated possessions/finances are going to be threatened.

Before you start thinking, “She should move to Venezuela and see how she likes it” or “She’s such a socialist,” hear me out.  I am advocating for a change in how we view our freedom and how we view our fellow humans.

If, as my family member posed, I’d been born to a billionaire father, would I want someone telling me how I could spend my money?  My first reaction is, no.  I’d want to be able to spend and give as I saw fit.  However, when considered, we need to recognize that a better system could be structured if we separated the personal spending from the political.  The issue is that the 1% and the large corporations can use their money as personal investments in the political arena (buying products…or in this case politicians, policies, votes, etc.) to benefit themselves.  How does that help the 99% (who, incidentally, are often the biggest advocates for the absurdly wealthy to be given tax breaks and other benefits, rather than being expected to pay their due to our system, too)?

Ultimately, I see it boiling down to selfishness and greed brought on by the idea that no one deserves anything and should therefore have to work just as hard to get anywhere.  But that ideology ignores the cultural, economic, and systemic shifts that have taken place.  No longer can a college student work for a summer to pay for college.  No longer can someone walk into an office, drop off an application face-to-face, and practically be guaranteed the job.  No longer can (or could we ever?) receive quality healthcare without the risk of financial ruin.  No longer can you move out on your own and easily survive…or survive at all.  The list goes on…

How do we fix this?  We can start by reading, educating ourselves on what’s really happening behind the “curtain” of our political system, opening our hearts and minds to the plights of others, and viewing ourselves as a team.  I’m not advocating for “everyone gets one egg for their meal today.”  I’m advocating for a mentality shift that doesn’t equate “tuition free college” or “free healthcare” as an attack on our freedoms and bank accounts but as an investment into our society and future.  I’m pushing for the understanding that when we set up a system to succeed, even if it costs a little bit more from the people (tax dollars…that aren’t poured into the military industrial complex), that we will all be more successful and stable.

Let Us Choose Peace

fullsizeoutput_f64Grainy shot from my trip to China–an incredible experience!

Today is the International Day of Peace.  I was excited weeks ago when I read it in my calendar, especially because the healing writing group I am involved with meets today.

The concept of “international peace” is simultaneously a fantasy that seems attainable, while also being something we can never touch.  Over the past week, peace has been in my face—or rather, the lack of it.  My heart is filled with sorrow at the hardness of humans against other humans, for differences that should bring us together.  Instead our governments, many media sources, propaganda, and our own prejudices divide us.

Two days ago I listened to a podcast by The Corbett Report about the lies that started the war in Afghanistan.  Last night, my husband and I watched some more of a documentary we’ve been viewing about Israel and how the United States gives carte blanche loyalty to a country committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.  9/11 recently passed, and I was again reminded of the millions of people affected by the United States choosing (even possibly orchestrating the events) to go to war for geopolitical reasons (i.e. greed).

This week you may have seen a woman from CodePink interrupting a presentation on the Iran Missile Program.  She spoke clearly, even while they tried to deter her from speaking out in support of the citizens of Iran who are constantly being hurt by decisions made by the United States government.

Peace.  We all seek it.  We all desire it.  We want it…for ourselves.  However, how many of us want it for the people we perceive as our enemies?  I say perceive, because statistically speaking, you’re more likely to be stung by a bee and die than die from a terrorist attack.  I say perceive, because if you follow social media accounts of travelers in the Middle East (where so many westerners base their fear) you would see incredible hospitality, people having fun, the most delicious food you can imagine, and a culture that cares.

That is the difference between people and governments.

When will we, as humans, stand up to the partisan politics that continue to wreak havoc on our WORLD?  My citizenship does not make me blind to the beauty and the atrocities around the globe.  I consider myself a citizen of the world.  I cherish what I have learned from my travels abroad and my chance meetings with internationals in the countries where I have resided.

Peace requires a change in our mentalities.  It requires us to remember and acknowledge the humanity in each one of us.  It forces me to remember the love I have for the person who says hateful things about other people I love.  It teaches me that through education peace has a greater chance of attainability because when people know something it can change their perspective.

Today, and every day, let’s choose peace—a peace that comes with well reasoned ideologies and process to create something better than we have ever experienced.  Something that goes beyond what we can fathom.  Think outside the box.  Imagine what can happen if we fight for peace and stop creating war!

Let us choose peace.

Art As A Weapon

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I was browsing a site that sells art this evening.  At the top of a page, there was a description of modern art’s color blocking that emerged in the mid-twentieth century.  I remember wanting to spend significant time discussing and attempting to understand modern art during my art history class in college.  I found the subject frustrating—starting with Duchamp’s Fountain.  Now, when I see images from that era, or artists attempting to continue the genre, I sit back, annoyed that I ever gave it the time of day.

You see, earlier this summer, my husband and I watched a four-part documentary series filmed in the 90s.  One of the segments shared that the modern art movement was really a CIA propaganda move to combat the rise of the Soviet Union.  Essentially, it was a war of the arts to prove who could produce higher culture.

Tonight I watched the movie Florence Foster Jenkins.  I won’t bother with the synopsis (because you should go watch it), but she is a well to-do woman who can afford to sponsor her own music career—while funding the career of her own pianist.  Her husband protects her from negative criticism because…well, you’ll just have to watch the movie.  But, while watching it, I realized how the arts can be a healing force.

I’m married to a musician, but I am not one.  I love music—certain kinds of music.  It makes me feel so many emotions.  I rise and fall with it.  Art does not only belong to the rich.  It belongs to all of us.  In our home we are so fortunate to be surrounded by art almost entirely created by people we know.  None of them paint or draw for a living.  For most, it’s a hobby.  Different techniques.  All bring me pleasure.

I suppose I’m trying to explain that I feel cheated by the government for manipulating the world with art.  Would Pollock be famous without the CIA?  I know the great artists were funded by patrons—often the Catholic church.  I’m struggling with the idea that what I’ve grown up admiring is not pure, but rather is tainted by the souls of those who sold themselves out to governments that do not work for the good of the people, but for their own self-interests.

Community in the Deep Side of the Pond

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I don’t know about where you live, but where I live, Spring is playing a teasing game of hide-and-seek.  The tantalizing scents, sights, and sounds cause my heart to swell with joy and anticipation of the refreshing weather and soul rejuvenation that is just around the corner (but the continued chilly days bring a damper).

With the changing of the season, I feel the urge to start some new life-habits, including a new book that I hope will give me some deeper insight into my own journey.  Have you ever read The Life You Save May Be Your Own by Paul Elie?  My impression is that it will compare, contrast, and ponder over what it’s four authors of focus wrote, lived, and contributed (the book looks at the lives of Flannery O’Connery, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and Walker Percy).  I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read it.

I know little bits about each of these authors—some more than others.  There is something deep and contemplative, hidden even, that I want to explore and gain from their experiences.  I’ve always loved the deeper things in life because that’s where bonding and community form, it’s where life is best lived and souls are grown.

Community is a beautiful and necessary thing.  When I reflect back over my 26.5 years, I see the ways I’ve grown and changed based on who I was around.  I also notice the maturing, though difficult, I’ve undergone during the lonely times in my life.  These authors, though separated by distance, have been placed in a category of influence during the 20th century much, it seems, like those members of the Lost Generation or the Transcendentalists (both groups with members or offspring from whom I garner inspiration) in their times.

Some of these communities burgeon into influential movements that impact the world, others will remain smaller and impact those in their immediate sphere of influence, but ALL serve a purpose.  One of my favorite times of community was during college when I was surrounded by close friends, all of us doing our best to figure out our lives.  It gets harder after graduating, when everyone disperses.  I’m thankful for the occasional visit or unexpected circle of peers (shout out to my Black Mountain people), because as a social adult, especially one recovering from a disease that limits my social time, I still need that connection that feeds my soul, the one that lets us share the struggles we are facing and what work we’re doing to address them.

One of my aunts shared a piece of Chinese wisdom with me yesterday: if you want to make a change in your life, do it for one minute a day until it becomes habit for that length of time.  Then, add a second minute.  The things in our lives we want to change—part of why I’ve chosen to read this new book—start with simple steps, like reading a short story in the evening before bed to feed my mind but without the commitment to something much longer.  It means making intentional decisions based on my personal goals for each day and stage of life.

Here’s to picking something you want to make a habit and doing it for one minute!
Here’s to creating community and going deep.
Here’s to Spring and rebirth.

How Low Will Some Stoop To Make A Buck? #Cancer

 

 

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I awoke this morning to a Facebook message from a friend sharing a story about a woman who discovered photographs of her deceased son on a child cancer awareness Instagram account (@chillhoodcancer229).  The problems are: the photos were posted without permission, the photos implied the child is still alive, and the entire account uses photos of sick children to market their cancer support swag.

If you visit the Instagram account and click on this photo, comments like this one from his mother are posted everywhere, teamdamian1: I’m his mom. He died November 5, 2016. His birthday was March 21 and this is how this sick, disgusting, pathetic person shares my amazing child’s legacy. I’m disgusted and I wish she would show her face. Must be nice sitting behind a computer….. I HATE this person.”

Understandably, this mother is having an intensely emotional response to someone using her beloved son’s image of his fight against a terrible disease.  She is not the only one.  If you spend time clicking through the various photos, many have comments from people asking that the photos be taken down due to posting without permission—in fact, some are posted as current pictures, despite the images being old.  Individuals are reporting the page to Instagram, but it is still active, making a profit off of the grief of families.  There is even a Change.org petition requesting Instagram remove the account.

As we all know, sickness doesn’t play favorites.  Popular singer Michael Bublé and wife Luisana Lopilato faced the news of their oldest son’s cancer diagnosis in 2016.  The owner of the @chillhoodcancer229 posted an image of Bublé and son, Noah, on March 25, 2018, including an incorrect age and implying the child was recently diagnosed.  Of course, the singer was not tagged, so it’s entirely likely he is clueless to the exploitation happening to his and other families with sick, dying, and dead children.

It is immoral and unethical to profit off of the hardship and pain of others.  People like the owner of the Instagram account in question lack empathy and understanding for other people, and instead want to find a way to make a buck.  As a cancer fighter (in fact, I just completed stage one of my recovery from a stem cell transplant) I know how quickly people want to support and give to causes that affect those they love.  I’ve had friends and family make donations to leukemia and cancer research charities in my honor.  However, due to the generosity of so many people, it is easy for con artists to take advantage of that giving spirit to line their own pockets.

I encourage you all to take a moment and report the Instagram account.  Also, please make your donations and purchases wisely.  Know where your money is going—to the CEOs bank account or to grants for real research?

 

A Lifelong Journey Meets Today

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Different people have asked me when I became passionate about social justice issues.  Pondering this question, I realized this fire has always been in me, but when I was growing up, it looked more “normal” because I was still developing my own views while largely parroting what I heard and filtering it through my own thoughts.  Today, many people in my sphere of influence do not agree with my views and perspective, but I am trying to learn how to interact and communicate in a non-alienating way (not something I’ve always done) while not compromising my stance.

It dawned on me that these facets of my personality and self are a combination of a fire in the core of my being and my mom conscientiously educating me about politics and processes, even placing me in observational situations, at a very young age.  Below, I attempt to articulate: when it all began, why I am passionate about social justice issues, and why politics energize me.

When I was young (maybe 4 or 5) my mom took me to a nearby city where former President George H. W. Bush was speaking.  It turned out the date was wrong, so we got breakfast instead, but she wanted me to have exposure to a recent former president speaking.

At age 5-6, flipping through a child’s book of different countries and cultures, I saw children sleeping/living in cardboard boxes.  It was the first time I knew that not all kids had safe and warm homes to live in.  I cried.

During the voting process of whether or not to impeach/remove (can’t remember which) former President Clinton from office, where was I?  You guessed it: sitting in front of the television watching a rare government process take place.  I was 7/8 years old—and, if I recall, I really wanted to play outside instead.  Now, I’m grateful.

When I was nine, my school handed us weekly copies of one of Scholastic Magazine’s student editions.  It was during the final months of the 2000 election campaign–the first one of which I have vivid memories.  We read and discussed it in school, the lady I carpooled with talked about it driving home, and my opinions were forming–obviously, at the time, in support of former President George W. Bush.  That year my mom made scones and tea and we watched the inauguration together.

Since then, I’ve aspired to be the first woman president, debated issues with teachers, scoured candidate’s websites to read their views on important topics, watched presidential debates, attended Virginia’s Model General Assembly statewide gathering for high school students, written for my university’s student newspaper, watched (with pride) the USA’s first black president take the oath of office, served on my university’s student government, studied journalism, worked as a journalist, opened my eyes to look for the deeper issues than what the news reports on the 24-hour cycle, and planned and attended activism and political events.

Social justice has always been a passion of mine—but I didn’t know to call it that.  However, it wasn’t until three years ago that I began to realize there were whole realms I didn’t know existed as problems.  I didn’t know people of color were still targeted by police.  Hate crimes against LGBTQIA seemed almost outside my comprehension—unless the action was specifically done as such.  And the “conspiracies” about the motivation behind politicians was still a little much for this young woman who wanted to believe that people were mostly good.

I started dating a guy.  He pushed me to see what I hadn’t yet seen.  It’s one of the things I love about him—that he wanted my awareness and consciousness to grow.  Since then, we’ve shared a passion for many areas: some are more his and others mine.  We’ve each supported the other one attending a massive social justice/political event.

I am passionate about social justice issues because all humans are not treated equally.  The earth is our home, our life source, and we treat it like the parent who never says no, but who one day decides enough is enough and no longer enables his/her children.  Governments of the world are controlled by greedy people, very few of whom genuinely care about the well being of their people, their country, and individuals around the globe.  We wage war on strangers in distant lands and justify it in the name of “national security”, while making other borders anything but secure.  We kill innocent bystanders and label them “collateral damage” so that we don’t have to dwell on the thousands, perhaps millions, who have died living their lives, hoping to survive.

Politics energize me because it is one way that people (supposedly) have the power to make a difference.  However, at this point, powerful families and corporations have control over much of the world’s governments, resources, and other systems.  It is important that we conscientiously put people in leadership who will fight for what is best, will critique and make changes, and take down what is not working.  The people have a responsibility to make known what they want for their region, country, and world.  More than anything, we have to engage in whatever ways possible: in person, by email/phone, social media, writing, speaking, etc.  We must make it known what we want and not step down, even when it happens, to ensure it continues.  Also, protests are not bad.

Finally, I firmly believe the biblical Proverb that says:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a sharp word stirs up anger.”

I firmly believe all humans are deserving of dignity.

If we all, government officials from the bottom to the top and citizens, applied these principles to our thoughts, words, and actions, our world would look drastically different—and war with N. Korea might not feel so imminent.