Sunday, March 17, 2013

Stuck In The System

Recently, I had to learn a harsh reality by making a bad decision.  In my defense, I did extensive research and truly believed I was making a wise decision.  This is my story...

I receive SSI because I was born with a significant disability.  I receive Food Stamps (EBT) because SSI is not enough to cover all living expenses.  I receive Home Care services because I can't get myself out of bed or to the bathroom.  I also have a wall full of professional credentials and a desire to provide for myself as much as possible instead of being a drain on the system because I have a great deal to contribute.  

Toward the tail end of 2012 I read about Ohio's Medicaid Buy-In Program.  It seemed too good to be true so I made a few phone calls to confirm that I was understanding the program correctly.  All parties agreed that by enrolling in the Medicaid Buy-In Program I could start my own business, earn money, and not lose any of the critical services that I depend on.  However, when I reach a certain income level, I will lose the Food Stamps and SSI and eventually have to make payments to continue Home Care services.  I thought that sounded great since my goal is to get off the system.  "Sign me up" I said!

My home-based business started out slow yet steady.  Like any new business, any money made the first year or so isn't really profit.  It just gets reinvested into the business.  All seemed to be going in a prosperous direction.  

Then I received two letters in the mail.  The first letter was from Medicaid, informing me that they were reducing my Food Stamps.  For every dollar paid to me from my Customers, Medicaid will take a dollar from my Food Stamps.  "Yikes," I thought.  I didn't panic until I opened the second letter though, which was from SSI.  For every dollar paid to me from my Customers, SSI will take a dollar from my SSI payments.  I thought this must be a mistake because it did not make sense to me that SSI/Medicaid would take away from me twice as much as I actually earned.  So, I called the Social Security hotline to clear up this misunderstanding.  

Now, if you personally know me or you are a follower of any of my blogs, then you know I'm pretty thick skinned.  It takes a lot to really traumatize me.  Well, after being on hold for more than ten minutes, I was finally connected to a Social Security representative.  While she was "pulling up my file" I started to state my case and explain that either I am not correctly understanding the wording of the letters sent to me or there was a mistake made on Social Security's end because the situation at hand just did not make sense.  I honestly don't know if this woman heard anything I said.  As soon as she retrieved my file, she started screaming at me.  I am not saying she used a stern tone.  I am saying that my friend who was in a different room in my house came running to see what was going on because he could hear her screaming at me.  She was not on speaker-phone either.  The message I got from her abusive behavior is that there was no misunderstanding on anyone's part.  This is how it is and I can take it or leave it.  

It took me hours to recover enough to react.  I felt victimized.  She treated me like I was stealing from her.  My next step was no more productive than the previous though.  I called my Medicaid case-worker, only to find that she had been transferred and the new case-worker had no idea what I was talking about when I mentioned the Medicaid Buy-In Program.

I think the Medicaid Buy-In Program is a great theory but is very, very poorly implemented.  Until the powers that be figure out how to make this program work, it is not practical for me to pursue employment.  

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