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Medicaid Requirements Putting Grandparents In A Bind

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LEE COUNTY — The income guidelines for Medicaid are putting a lot of families, especially grandparents raising their grandchildren, into a financial bind. They say it is the kids who ultimately suffer.

In order to qualify for Medicaid benefits, a family of three must make less than $1,622 a month, and the income guidelines are set in stone. Extra expenses, and the age of the parents, or grandparents, are not considered.

Six-year-old Shawn Thomas gets a lot of hugs from his grandmother, Lynn but he has not always been so lucky. Four years ago, Shawn was rescued by his grandparents from an abusive home.

"I grabbed him and I collapsed on the floor and started to cry," said Lynn Thomas.

Today, Shawn receives counseling and speech therapy. But recently, his Medicaid benefits were cut off.

"They tell us basically that we are too rich, (but) we are not rich people," said Thomas.

The family lives on Lynn's social security check and her husband's small income.

"It's frustrating, because he has special needs that I don't think anybody except maybe Donald Trump or Sam Walton could handle," said Thomas.

Everyone wants health insurance for their children and a lot of people feel like Medicaid discourages people from working or getting married because if they do, they risk losing the coverage their children so desperately need.

Dean Simpson administers Medicaid benefits for Wake County. She says there are plenty of kids like Shawn falling through the cracks.

"(Their families) just don't make enough money to buy insurance. The premium that a family has to pay for insurance is almost unbearable for their financial situation, and then they don't quite qualify for our programs," said Simpson.

"If we were younger we could do all this and recoup, but since we're older we can't," said Thomas.

There are state and county programs, like Health Choice, which help working families get affordable insurance for their children. But they have strict income guidelines also, and long waiting lists.

Congress is looking at a bill that would change the income guidelines to allow more people to take advantage of Medicaid.


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