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Day 53 — Medicaid Helps

Today I went for an eye appointment I made using my new Medicaid card. I couldn’t afford to stay on my former employer’s COBRA plan, which under federal law allows you to continue your health insurance at group rates. The premiums under my plan were about a $1,000 a month—for an HMO. I couldn’t swing it.

I hadn’t thought of Medicaid either. But the city government offered it after reviewing my finances. I used to get confused between Medicaid and Medicare. Now I don’t. Medicaid is for poor people, and Medicare is for old people. Right now, I’m poor.

Before my appointment, I needed to figure out a way to get to a poor part of town to meet with executives at a do-gooder organization, not for a job interview but to help strategize an energy conservation campaign. I’m anxious because I need to make it back home in time to change into my poor clothes—jeans, sneakers, plain shirt and fleece jacket. The poor look is further enhanced by no makeup or jewelry, and I let my hair air dry after my shower, which I still take.  I never pull out my Blackberry while in a waiting room. I silence it.

The meeting with the execs goes great, and we’ll be partnering on the campaign. There’s no money in it for me, however. When you’ve been unemployed for a while, it’s important, at least for me, to keep a sense of self-purpose. Helping others, even when I need help, makes me feel good about myself and proves I still have a moral core. I don’t empty my pockets of change into the hands of a panhandler, but I’ve flipped the poor guy selling Street Sense, a newspaper about the homeless, a dollar every now and then, but not lately.

I got a new eye prescription from doctors who work at a major hospital. I was afraid of subprime healthcare, given it’s Medicaid. But the big shocker came when I went to fill it at an eyeglass store the health-care facility recommended. I mistakenly thought that the store filled Medicaid prescriptions, but after picking out a pair of frames and adding in the lenses, the technician told me that’s not the case. I couldn’t swallow spending what would have been close to $600 on the eyeglasses and left, determined to find a better deal on the Internet. I did on eBay at Optical Needs and for about half that amount. I bought them. Medicaid is supposed to pay for my eyeglasses, but no one at the number listed on the back of my card can tell me where I should go.

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