Thursday, August 30, 2007

Red Tape

Oh where to begin??

Now, my hubby and I are not rich folk. We make an honest living, we live frugally; we don't have a lot of "things" that others have. We drive older cars, we live in a smallish home and we just don't do a lot. We can't afford fancy vacations or dinners out or new clothes. We rely on the generosity of friends and family at times. Kiddo wears mostly hand-me-down clothes and shoes and that is just fine.

Of course, I often wish things were different, but we are not hurting. There is food on the table, a roof over our heads, and I really can't ask for anything more.

I do not consider us to be poor.

But, the government does.

It's funny how there are shades of poverty. I never realized it before.

We cannot afford to keep me on Hubby's company insurance policy. As it is, we pay an excruciating amount monthly to keep Kiddo on there - and have been trying to get other coverage for him for a couple of years now. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances surrounding his birth and some of the complications that he encountered, he has been turned down by several insurance companies. So, for now, we keep him on Hubby's policy and take the hit every month. If we were to add me to it, what we now pay would double and we simply can't afford it. Bills would go unpaid, the house would be in jeopardy. It's just not feasible.

So, when we tossed around the idea of getting pregnant again, I did some research into health plans and who might cover maternity. There are so few out there, and the maternity riders are insanely expensive. Obviously this was not an option for us.

Texas has a state program called CHIP. It is low cost health insurance for children, and truly a Godsend for families with lower incomes who can't afford private insurance and who don't qualify for Medicaid. I knew for sure we didn't qualify for Medicaid. As a family of 3 though, we don't qualify for CHIP either. But, as a family of 4 (and you can count unborn children if you are currently pregnant) we do. After discovering this, I also uncovered information that CHIP now has a perinatal program that covers unborn babies for 1 year (which means all of the prenatal care is covered, as well as the first few months after birth).

So as we started looking into the future, I knew that insurance would not be much of an issue. We found out we were expecting, and I filled out my application and sent it in.

Then there was the 2 week wait. And at the end of two weeks I received the envelope in the mail. I eagerly opened it, expecting some sort of card and a book on providers. Boy was I shocked when the only item in the envelope was a single piece of paper telling me I had been denied.

We qualify for Medicaid.

Wow. I wasn't expecting that.

So today I headed down to the Department of Health and Human Services to fill out an application. I checked on line to see if there was anything I might need, loaded up Kiddo and all my paperwork and made the trek across town. When we got there I took a number, found the forms I thought I would need and sat down to fill them out.

Going to the Health Department is a bit like going to the DMV. It's a melting pot of races and ages and situations. I felt extremely out of place there - but I'm not entirely sure why. Most of the people there were women, and most of them were either minorities or young girls (teen age looking, though one can never be sure). The majority didn't speak English. There were crying babies and screaming kids and the biggest security guard I have ever seen. The man must have been 7 feet tall.

The girl that came in after me didn't look a day over 17. She had a little boy with her that was probably a year older than Kiddo. She was dressed fairly nice - her clothes appeared new and in good shape. I noticed a key chain hanging from her belt loop. On one side it had a picture of a woman's back side in revealing lingerie, on the other side it said "lick me". (eed gads!) The little boy had a Spiderman motorcycle toy and he was walking from one row of chairs to the next, whacking that little toy on the back of each chair as he passed. Once his rounds began attracting the participation of the other young kids in the room, the security guard promptly put the kibosh on the kiddie parade that was annoying so many of us. In an effort to keep her child occupied, she then (quite loudly) played the "spell this word" game. The kid was smart, but I was a bit bothered by the way she practically yelled each word to him so we could all hear.

The girl in front of me also looked to be about 17. She had a brand new little boy she was caring for. He couldn't have been more than a couple of weeks old, if that. The first thing I noticed about her was that she had absolutely stunning hair. It was long, almost to her waist, a beautiful chestnut brown and it had the perfect, symmetrical waves at equal intervals all the way down. She had a pretty face, innocent without make up, and she was tall and thin. She was wearing low rise jeans with a bright pink lace g-string poking out of the back. She had on a tan colored bra and two tank tops over that, and I could clearly see all three articles of clothing. When she got up to go to the window, I noticed that her arms, back, neck and chest were covered with abrasions, scratches and scars at various stages of healing. She had a scar on her bicep that looked like someone took a cigar and burned a poorly scrolled image of the sun in her flesh. To look at her, and imagine her story made me so sad. I don't know what kind of hell her life was, but it couldn't have been good. While I was waiting, another teen age looking girl came in that apparently knew her. They greeted one another and the new girl said "you had another baby?". ANOTHER??!? Holy moly.

There were others there, but these two stood out to me. Maybe it was because of their age - but as I sat there for 2 hours waiting I wondered why I was there in the first place. Surely I am not at the same poverty level as these poor souls. These are the people I should be volunteering to help, right? I mean, we are just at our financial limit - we are not lacking food or basic needs. It was quite eye opening.

So after 2 hours of clutching Kiddo in my lap and trying to calm him with stories of Mr. Incredible and Lightning McQueen being best friends, my number was finally called. I walked up to the window and handed the clerk my paperwork. She looked at it, verified I was applying for Medicaid for pregnant women and then asked, "Do you have a pregnancy test?"


I'm thinking, does she mean the pee on a stick kind, or what? I stammered at her question and asked what she meant. She clarified that I needed a doctor's affirmation of pregnancy (wasn't that the whole point of needing insurance???). I'm pretty sure she was holding back laughter when she handed me a paper to a place called Agape Pregnancy Resource Center. I was instructed to go there for an official pregnancy test and come back to get my application receipt.

So off we went, Kiddo screaming because after 2 hours of wanting to leave he suddenly decided he did NOT want to go anywhere. We found the building without much trouble, and when we walked in I was pleasantly surprised. The lobby area was nicely done, with antique furniture and high end rugs and draperies. It had a warm, inviting style of decor, and it actually took me a moment to notice the many crosses and informational bulletins along the tables and walls. I wasn't quite sure what I had walked into, but everyone seemed nice enough and without much wait they called me back. The woman that called me walked us into a room that contained a couch and a couple of plush chairs. The same cozy decor filled the room and I was a bit confused as to why I had been taken there.

Then came the interview. *sigh*

They asked me all kind of questions pertaining to my mental health and home life and the father of my unborn baby. About 5 questions in I realized that this was the kind of place that catered to unwed mothers, homeless pregnant women and minors in trouble. The case worker was shocked when I told her I had a bachelor's degree and was actually married and living with my baby's daddy (grin). I was desperately trying to be polite. My head however, was screaming at this woman - "I am not some troubled teen!!! I did not come here for help!! This is where they sent me for a darn pregnancy test - can I just go take that and get this over with??!?". I endured the 30 minute interview, where she made sure I was a Christian and that we were "all on the same page", and that I wasn't in need of counseling or a mental evaluation. She led me to the bathroom for the test and waited outside the door. Of course, it took me longer than usual because as soon as I did what I needed to do, Kiddo decided he needed to go potty too.

Once done she came back into the interview room and exclaimed that it was DEFINITELY positive (well duh) and that she was shocked it had given results so fast. I mentioned that at almost 9 weeks I would hope there was plenty of hormone there and again she looked at me like I had something growing out of my head. "Oh, you know how far along you are?" Umm, yeah. Just when I thought we were done, the case worker wanted to explain all of the things the center provides. In all this Kiddo was about to go mad trying to escape the room and go run and play with the toys he saw at the end of the hall. Then it was time to pray for the baby. To me, this part was rather nice - but I can see where some young scared teen might think it is a bit creepy. Kiddo was kind of spooked I think, because she wanted us all to hold hands and he desperately tried to mold his little body into the wall farthest from us, squealing "noooo-ooooooo" the entire time. As we were praying, he snuck out of the room and started down the hall. Suddenly, in the room next door, someone turned on the TV and the volume was at full blast. The noise scared Kiddo so bad he bolted back into the room!

Finally, she took me on a tour. Thankfully the place was small. But as she pointed out all the diapers and clothes and whatnot I could "buy" with the money mothers earn at the center for attending bible study and parenting classes - it kept hitting me that she still thought I was a troubled pregnant woman. I so desperately wanted to laugh at her, or explain myself or something. I just didn't know what to do. Then when everything was toured she said they had something for me. They were giving me a free receiving blanket. I objected. Standing there looking at all the beautiful blankets obviously hand made by loving individuals that volunteered their time and talents - I couldn't possibly take something that was intended for someone who really had nothing. I thought of all the receiving blankets I have packed away from Kiddo's baby days. I thought about how I should have donated the gently used ones to a place like this. She insisted I take one, so I chose a brightly colored cotton piece that looked like it had less time and materials put into it and reluctantly put it in the bag of other goodies she gave me. Then she gave Kiddo two brand new books and when I objected again she pointed out that they had 2000 copies of each book and had no where to store them all. I left feeling ashamed. and misunderstood. and confused.

So we finally got out of there, an hour and a half later. I raced back over to the Health Department, turned in my proof sheet and got my receipt. Thankfully I didn't have to wait in line again. We stopped at McDonald's on the way home and I devoured half of a double cheeseburger and half an order of greasy fries - man I love being pregnant! It was sooooo good! Kiddo, my I-will-not-eat-anything-that-is-mixed-with-something-else, anti-sandwich kid actually at the other half of the burger; and he loooooved it! I felt weird getting excited about him eating fast food, but it was just a rare thing I guess. He promptly passed out in the car seat with a death grip on a french fry. When we got home I had to pry open his fingers and peel the sweaty smushed fry out before carrying him in the house. He slept for a good 2 1/2 hours. Poor guy. It was a big day.

-for me too.

D :)


Misty said...

I'm sorry to hear it's been SUCH an ordeal for you to get prenatal care. I hope things are easier from here on out. I hate feeling like I've wasted days cutting through red tape like that. Congrats again on the new baby. :)

Julia said...

Wow. I'm sorry to hear that you had to go through all that just to obtain insurance for prenatal care. I sure hope it is smooth sailing from this point on for you. Will you have restrictions when it comes to OB and hospital?

Aunt A and Uncle W said...

I just want you to know that you are an engaging writer. You don't just tell the facts, but add flavor to them. Your flavor... I can hear you talking.

Say "hello" to hubbie and kiddo.


Barb said...

Wow what a day you guys had...hopefully you get your cards quickly and don't have any additional issues.

Glad kiddo was mostly good!!

Jen said...

What a mess! I've had family deal with that same's a headache...and heartbreaking @ the same-time. I hope it gets you the right care that you need though! I had to laugh about the fast food comment...I too, would be glad if Joei would just eat a cheeseburger =)

Heather said...

UGH. I hate those crisis pregnancy centers. Did you know they get government funding to preach? I just don't think that's right.

Sorry it was such an ordeal for you, but I'm glad you'll have Medicaid and Kiddo will have low-cost healthcare too :)

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