Caretaker worries Claiborne Co. woman will die without Medicare

Caretaker worries Claiborne Co. woman will die without Medicare enrollment

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David Carter has been caring for his disabled neighbor, Tabitha Deaton. David Carter has been caring for his disabled neighbor, Tabitha Deaton.
Deaton has been having trouble managing her blood sugar levels. Deaton has been having trouble managing her blood sugar levels.
"She's done everything we've asked her to do. She tries very hard to improve her health care, but yet it is still a struggle. She's sick, very sick," said Interfaith Health Clinic Director Melissa Knight. "She's done everything we've asked her to do. She tries very hard to improve her health care, but yet it is still a struggle. She's sick, very sick," said Interfaith Health Clinic Director Melissa Knight.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

TAZEWELL (WATE) - An uninsured, young, disabled woman has an uphill battle as she struggles to regain her health. The problem for this 27-year-old woman is she has no medical insurance.

With multiple disabilities, she became eligible for Social Security disability a year ago; it provides a monthly income.

But under federal guidelines, she's on a waiting list for badly-needed Medicare coverage.

In Tazewell, David Carter has been caring for his disabled neighbor, Tabitha Deaton.  

Before she lost her sight, Deaton worked every day at a Claiborne County convenience store.

As an insulin-dependant diabetic, she has only one functioning kidney. And because she can't afford enough medications, her diabetes is out of control. A daily log of her blood sugar shows the levels are high.

"It makes my potassium go out of whack and that will stop my heart pretty soon if I don't get it under control," she said.

Deaton is afraid that might happen. She has distant cousins in Tazewell, but no immediate family to help pay bills.

At the Claiborne County Hospital, she's accumulated a huge bill that can never be paid back.

Unemployed and with no health insurance, Deaton qualified for Social Security disability last year, but under federal rules there is a two-year waiting period before she's eligible for Medicare insurance.

"If she doesn't get Medicare and health coverage now, she will die. She will not make it to March of 2014. That's when her Medicare kicks in," said Carter.

There are exceptions to the waiting list, but Deaton doesn't qualify.

"I'm afraid I'm not going to make it until next year. My kidney function is so bad," she said.

Paying for the medication she needs takes half of her monthly $783 disability check.

In Knoxville, Melissa Knight enrolled Deaton in the Interfaith Health Clinic. It's a medical facility for low-income working people or the uninsured who qualify. There, a patient pays 10%, while the clinic picks up 90% of a bill.

From her home in Tazewell, Deaton travels 60 miles to Knoxville to visit the clinic and see specialists.

"She's done everything we've asked her to do. She tries very hard to improve her health care, but yet it is still a struggle. She's sick, very sick," said Knight.

Now, more help may be on the way for her.

At the offices of the East Tennessee Human Resource Agency (ETHRA), after meeting with an insurance specialist, Deaton was signed up with a patient assistance program, run by pharmaceutical companies that provide free medication to people who can't afford it.

Because she's legally blind, Deaton filled out an application for Tenncare, hoping that bridges the gap before her Medicare coverage begins.

And ETHRA has signed her up for a special home nursing care program for the disabled called Choice.

For Deaton, it's help towards her ultimate goal.

"I'd just like to live a normal life right now."


Don Dare's 6 On Your Side reports can be seen every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on 6 News at 6:00.

If you have a consumer issue, call the 6 On Your Side Hotline at 865-633-5974 or email ddare@wate.com.

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