This is an excerpt from an email I received. I’ve edited for typos and formatting, and to obscure identifying information.
For me this all came to a head with the Affordable Healthcare Act. I thought – gee, I’m finally going to be able to get the health care I need, right? I’m diabetic with thyroid issues, kidney stones, fibromyalgia and so many more problems. Was nice to think, next year I won’t have to go to the free clinic, I can go into a real doctor’s office and be seen. Be treated like everyone else… And then the information was received – that we are TOO POOR TO GET INSURANCE. WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!?! TOO POOR?? Oh, we won’t have to pay the penalty on our taxes (oh gee thanks) for not having insurance, and you can log back into the system after December 1st and see the plans you can pay to get, but you won’t get any assistance in getting them. Hang on… WHAT???!?!??! It took me days to process this. To realize that yet again I’ve been screwed.
We didn’t used to be poor. My husband and I both worked full time jobs in the mental health field as caregivers. We took care of the people that most don’t want to even see out in public. My husband had a nervous breakdown and had to quit his job, so it was up to me to support us. Things went well for a while. We invested more into our retail store, that site in our front yard and sales were good for a while – good meaning about $100-200 a month. It kept gas in the tank so I could continue to drive the hour to work. And then my kidneys shut down and I was in the hospital, then I was out of work for 6 months. That store kept food on the table and paid the bills as best we could. I borrowed to make ends meet.
I got back to work, found a job closer to home but it meant a pay cut. When comparing pay cut to cost of gas, it was simply logical to work closer to home. I’ve been at this same job now for 8 years. My husband’s daughter graduated high school and moved in with us. Everyone was happy, we thought. We struggled but we still managed to make ends meet, and we even managed to go on a trip to the beach. Sure, we had to camp because it was cheaper than a hotel room, but I got to see the ocean, see where my husband grew up.
My husband’s mother died of breast cancer in our living room. We brought her into our home to care for her after her diagnosis (this was her second bout.) It was traumatic, it changed the dynamic of the family. I didn’t think my husband would survive it, but he did. I talked him into applying for a job at our new superstore when it opened. He not only landed a job, but he got better pay than most shift managers. He was happy, he was active, he was making friends! And then his back went out… and he was out of work for several months, eventually going back part time and fighting his way back to full time again.
Then that fateful day when he was hurt permanently. Workman’s Comp ruled our life. All the tests, driving five hours to another city to get into an upright/sitting MRI machine. All the medications, the hallucinations (seems he’s allergic to medication for nausea), the addictions to high powered pain medications. But even through all of this he kept on going and went back to working part time, because he knew we needed the income, all the while praying that the lawyer would get us a good settlement. In the end he had a small breakdown and quit his job. The corporate Workmans Comp valued his life at $9 a week and gave us a settlement based on that value, expecting him to live another 20 years. Shocking to know that his life was valued so low. During all of this and before we got the settlement, his daughter moved out and stopped speaking to us, her local friends and all the family on her fathers side. He was devastated. He lost his mom, estranged from his brother for a long time and now his daughter as well.
We tried to spend the money in an intelligent way. Of course we blew some of it, everyone would. However, we paid off the bills, the van and the clothes washer I was paying on. We had our store’s building enlarged. We had a tin roof installed over our existing leaky roof (I actually took a bad fall, injuring my back, because of the leaky roof) and we added on a covered porch.
So here we are. He’s trying to get disability – we’re on round two and we contracted our lawyer to handle this round. His depression is terrible – in fact he had his third breakdown this past week. My hours were cut last year when Obamacare was announced – funny how ironic that is. My hours being cut for a benefit that I’m too poor to even get. So every week I rob peter to pay paul to keep the lights on, phone on, insurance on the van, food on the table. When the van broke down several times I took out loans that now take half my pay automatically. My mom had her third stroke and I decided that for Thanksgiving this year we’re going to go see her. It’s only a 6 hr drive, but that’s $160 in gas that I don’t have, so I borrowed more money. It’s only money, right? I’ll make more… but the thought of not seeing mom and her dying… It’s only money.
0I’ve tried hard to not think about our situation, about the last 10 years, but finding about being too poor for insurance last week just brought all of it to a head and I’ve been thinking about the dynamic of being poor. I remember emailing my boss about the health insurance info and commenting about “the futility of it all.” Add to all of this is the holidays – the constant pressure to spend spend spend because it makes people HAPPY! No, it doesn’t. It makes them poor, it makes them depressed, it makes them desperate.
So that brings me back to your post. Words still fail me when I think about your post. You could have been describing our lives. How I work my job and come home and work online, trying to make more money to pay the bills that will need more money to pay next month. I know that we’re not the only people in this situation, but we don’t talk about it. We try to “keep our chin up”, find ways of distracting ourselves, or simply go to sleep.