Morgan County woman told she is 'too poor' for Obamacare

Morgan County woman told she is 'too poor' for Obamacare

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Vickie Driskill is an insulin dependant diabetic. Her husband Michael now cares for her full time. They're both unemployed. Vickie Driskill is an insulin dependant diabetic. Her husband Michael now cares for her full time. They're both unemployed.
Vickie removed her sock to show her infected big toe, a complication of diabetes. Vickie removed her sock to show her infected big toe, a complication of diabetes.
"People are going to die in Tennessee without insurance," said Vickie Driskill. "People are going to die in Tennessee without insurance," said Vickie Driskill.
Vickie's husband Michael said Monday that despite his bad heath, he plans on going back to work doing lawn maintenance. He said he'll have to leave Vickie alone because they need the money. Vickie's husband Michael said Monday that despite his bad heath, he plans on going back to work doing lawn maintenance. He said he'll have to leave Vickie alone because they need the money.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

DEER LODGE (WATE) - A Morgan County woman who desperately needs health care is frustrated after finding out the Affordable Care Act is not going to help the "poorest of the poor" in Tennessee.

She wanted to know if there is any other assistance.

The state of Tennessee so far has opted not to expand its Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act.

What this means for nearly a quarter of a million Tennessee residents is they'll be without health care coverage under Obamacare.

Vickie Driskill is an insulin dependant diabetic. She checks her blood sugar levels six times a day.

The 58-year-old started losing sight in her right eye a few years ago, plus she has other health complications and had to quit work 11 months ago.

Her husband Michael now cares for her full time. They're both unemployed. They recently moved into an old home in Deer Lodge with rent of $275 a month.

Last November, the mother of two grown children who live out of state received notice that she's eligible for Social Security disability and $736 a month.

"It was a very good day when I got it. It lifted a weight off my shoulders," said Vickie Driskill.

However, under federal guidelines, she's not eligible for Medicaid insurance until next year. Believing she could get help from the Affordable Care Act, the Driskills went online to sign up for insurance under the marketplace.

"They flat told me we do not qualify for the discounted rate. The discounted rate is only for those who make $20,000-plus a year," said Michael Driskill.

"It's not fair for the poor people not to be able to get any help," Vickie said.

Vickie removed her sock to show her infected big toe, a complication of diabetes.

"You wouldn't imagine how one toe would hurt the whole body so bad," said Michael.

"If I don't get some help, I'll die. I'll go blind. This bone infection will go all the way up. I'll start losing my legs," said Vickie.

Erin Hill is director of Knoxville Area Project Access, a community charity created to assist uninsured, low income East Tennesseeans.

She says it is estimated there may be 240,000 people in Tennessee like the Driskills who won't get extra help from Obamacare and can't afford to pay full price for their insurance.

"Here in the state of Tennessee, we are not doing a Medicaid expansion," Hill explained. "So when the Affordable Care Act rolled out, it was assumed all the states would do a Medicaid expansion. Without it, there is no help for those people under the 100 percent federal guidelines."

The Driskills visited KAPA's office in Knoxville a few days ago. They sat down with a navigator who asked about their needs and financial situation to determine if they're eligible for any cost sharing subsidies.

The couple also went the Interfaith Health Clinic, a medical facility for the poor and uninsured who qualify.

"I want to feel better," said Vickie.

Gov. Bill Haslam has declined to accept expanded Medicaid money without special arrangements through the federal government.

The legislature told the governor in a vote on March 10 that he'll have to get their okay to carve out any special deal for Medicaid expansion.

People like Vickie Driskill are caught up in the debate.

"To the Tennessee lawmakers, I say they need to get up and they need to fight for the poor people in this state," she said. "People are going to die in Tennessee without insurance."

Tennessee lawmakers opposed to Medicaid expansion say they see Obamacare as a huge government intrusion.

So far, the Federal Health and Human Services Department has not gotten back to Gov. Haslam with any counterproposal providing the flexibility the state is looking for.

Vickie's husband Michael said Monday that despite his bad heath, he plans on going back to work doing lawn maintenance. He said he'll have to leave Vickie alone because they need the
money.

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