Angie (left) works with Pisgah Legal Social Worker Judi Schultze.

The wait for Medicaid Expansion in North Carolina has been a long one… especially for Pisgah Legal clients like Angie.  

Angie first came to Pisgah Legal Services for help during the COVID-19 pandemic when she was being forced out of a rental property. A kind friend was allowing her to live there for free, while she was away. But when Angie’s friend passed away unexpectedly, the landlord showed up the next morning and demanded Angie gather her things – in trash bags if necessary – and leave immediately since her name wasn’t on the lease. Pisgah Legal stepped in and gave Angie more time to find a safe place to live and to mourn the loss of her friend.

Before that, Angie lived on and off the streets for years, in and out of rehabs. It wasn’t always like that though.

Angie survived terrible childhood traumas and abuse. She went on to earn two associates degrees working with computers. Angie had a good job, until 2010 when her job was outsourced. When she lost her job, she had to “short sell” her house and give her car back to the dealership. She started self-medicating with alcohol. “The money ran out, and I became homeless,” she says.

After all these difficult years, she has a lot of medical issues, both physical and mental. Angie goes to a free medical clinic to be treated. There Angie waits in long lines, hoping to be seen, and retells her life story to volunteer physicians, reliving horrible childhood abuse and trauma, explaining her 25+ different diagnoses, and her life living on and off the street. “Different clinics, different doctors, different meds,” says Angie. “I need someone who is invested in me to care.

Her caseworker at Pisgah Legal is Judi Schultze. Judi drove Angie to the hospital Emergency Room not so long ago because Angie had a urinary tract infection that had worsened, and she wasn’t able to get to the free clinic in time. The best she could do was try to cure herself by drinking cranberry juice. “I can’t just go to the doctor and get antibiotics like other people. But with food stamps I can buy cranberry juice,” Angie says.

When Medicaid Expansion finally goes into effect in North Carolina, Angie and Judi are hopeful her health and life will improve dramatically. With Medicaid she hopes to have one doctor that can monitor her health, change her medications when needed, and treat her with compassion. “Medicaid would open up a whole host of providers. Having a continuum of care has been a huge issue for me,” says Angie.

Judi is frustrated with the delays, watching her clients suffer needlessly due to the delay and politicians tying expansion to the passage of the budget, which was totally unnecessary. She is also baffled by the lack of understanding about costs. She knows that Medicaid will actually save money… for everyone. “When Angie had to go to the Emergency Room, that CT scan cost $14,000. That’s not an overnight stay, that’s just the scan. We ALL pay for that since Angie can’t.” With preventative care, Angie’s condition could have been treated for a fraction of that cost.

Judi and Angie are trying to prepare for Medicaid Expansion in the hopes that Angie can finally get covered to improve her health and her life. But it won’t be easy. There is no paper trail with Angie; because she’s been homeless, her records have been lost. She has had no primary doctor to compile her records in one place. She needs Pisgah Legal Services’ expertise to apply and get finally covered.

Angie said, “If you are mentally ill, how are you supposed to jump through these hurdles? It’s like trying to run a marathon with a broken leg.”

To learn more about what Medicaid Expansion will mean for folks like Angie, check out this recording of this recent Forum held at AB Tech in Asheville.

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