Thursday, June 1, 2006

Ohio’s Medicaid & Welfare Systems

Everyone told me that I would require help getting Social Security because it was very difficult to become accepted for disability, but not to worry because there was Workman’s Compensation, Medicaid and welfare to tide me over. Maybe if I lived in Iraq, however, I happen to live in Ohio.
As it turns out, in June of 2003, I had no problem becoming accepted for disability by the SSA. Since I was a computer analyst and was deemed unable to physically perform my job by the State of Ohio, the SSA figured I really was disabled. I just had to wait 6 months before collecting any money. So I applied for Workman’s compensation and went down to the local office of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS) to apply for welfare benefits, which included Medicaid for me and my wife. She had not worked since we left California to return to Ohio and had shattered her femur when she hit a bus. She still had the stitches over the area where they inserted the metal rod in her thigh to be attached by screws to the bone and walked almost as poorly as I did.
I signed up for Food stamps (which we received right away for the family), Medicaid (which took 4 months to receive) and monetary assistance (about $118 @ month) which we never received! When I finally did get my Medicaid card, it only covered my prescriptions (which were and are over $1000 @ month), but it did not cover Doctor’s visits, equipment rentals ($650 @ month for a sleep apnea machine) or hospital visits. Since part of my disability is degenerative joint disease (crippling arthritis) and the doctor’s wanted to replace my knee and hip, this I could not do with the Medicaid card I had. And since I also suffered from out-of-control diabetes, my doctor wanted to check me every month. The blood, eye and urine tests were expensive.
It was worse for my wife. My case worker looked at her and declared her able to work, since she was only 54, and therefore not eligible for monetary assistance (big deal I didn’t get mine anyway) or Medicaid (I must have missed his Mayo Clinic credentials posting and the physical he performed on her). I had to purchase a hospitalization plan for her for emergencies only, that cost me $127 @ month and had to pay for her daily prescriptions, 2 blood pressure pills, thyroid medication and Paxil, out of my own pocket (which was rapidly draining). She would never get a prescription for her arthritis, due to no prescription or doctor’s visit coverage, and to this day still takes six, nighttime Tylenols a day instead.
What really made me see red was my case worker’s comment to us on the way out of his office. He said it was too bad that my wife had not just gotten out of jail, because then she would have qualified for both Medicaid and monetary assistance! I was mad because I had just spent over $500 for a lawyer to represent her in court; $390 for a required, weekend alcohol rehabilitation session ordered by the court and a $450 fine for the DUI was charged with for hitting the bus because I did not want her to have to go to jail. Silly me, I could have saved over $1300 and she would have received all the welfare and Medicaid goodies she was denied if I had let her go to jail. Even worse, I found out this year, thanks to the wife of the City of Columbus mayor, that you can pick your choice of jails for DUI incarceration and she could have chosen the same jail Mrs. Coleman selected. The one in Akron, Ohio that is described as a country club because of its spacious, private quarters and no jail uniform requirements. I believe they also allow multiple furloughs on weekends and Holidays and since my wife’s family lives in Akron, she could have visited with them at the expense of the State of Ohio.
Now you say, why are you complaining? You should have received the maximum amount for Workman’s compensation and do receive the maximum amount of SSA Disability payments (due to your former, high paying jobs).Well, first there was the Worker’s compensation that I collected. Zero dollars. Why? Well, although I qualified to receive payments (I know I did, they sent me a letter saying so), since I answered the questionnaires honestly, I was rejected for each payment because I was not actively looking for work. Duh! I am unable to work, how can I actively look for work? What work would be easier to do than the work I was deemed, by the State, unable to perform? So, I never received any Workman’s compensation payments.
Now for the real kick in the pants. When I received my first, monthly SSA Disability check ($1760) in November 2003, I received a letter from Medicaid stating that the lousy coverage I already had was going to get worse. They used the term “Spenddown”, which is a euphemism for co-pay or deductible, in describing how my Medicaid coverage was changing. Until I met the Spenddown assigned to me ($1250) each month, I would not receive a Medicaid card for that month. They said my wife and I could both live on $510 @ month and not to blame ODJFS, because it was the Federal Government that mandated this amount.
Needless to say, I fought and finally received a “stay of execution” from the brand of Welfare and Medicaid assistance Ohio was condemning me to. However, that is another, even longer story that will have to be described in a Weblog of its own.

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