Are You Being Served?

in·ter·sec·tion·al·i·ty
ˌin(t)ərsekSHəˈnalədē/
noun
  1. the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.
    “through an awareness of intersectionality, we can better acknowledge and ground the differences among us”

    The state of Arizona doesn’t believe that I exist. I’m a woman with a bachelor’s degree, but I also have some rare diseases that have disabled me to the point that I am unable to work. I really had worked my ass off until I had my last shunt failure and surgery, when my neurosurgeon threw in the towel and gave up on me. The judge that I sat in front of for six minutes in March of this year noted in my paperwork that I had an exceptional work history. So my monthly pay is above the poverty level, because it’s based on the amount of take-home pay for the past 10-15 years (at the judge’s and state’s discrimination and calculation).

    Let me back up a little. I got my official judgement saying I’m disabled. Yay. Then my attorney told me that I might have to wait a number of months to see any money. But on May 24th, I got a call from the federal office saying that my money would be released on May 27th. I asked how it would be paid. They said it would be sent how I asked it to be sent. I asked how that was possible, since I hadn’t specified. They said, oh, it looks like we have info from Arizona. (Instant panic, since I haven’t lived there for 3 years.) I said no, absolutely not, I have all of my info updated for Minnesota, there’s no reason for it to be sent to Arizona. They said too bad, if you want it sent to Minnesota, you have to go to your local Minnesota office.

    So I did, on the morning of Friday, May 25th. I was a little worried because it was right before the holiday weekend. Luckily it wasn’t a long wait. But I found out that the money was already sent to Arizona – they didn’t wait until May 27th. It was sent on May 22nd. My former bank in Arizona reopened my account, accepted this rather large amount of money, and just sat on it. They didn’t tell me, and didn’t send the money back. For days. I was able to work it out so they could send the money to my current bank so it wasn’t lost. Anyway…

    So, while at the Social Security office making sure they didn’t send anything else to Arizona, I mentioned Medicare. The man helping me said, oh, didn’t you know, you’ve had it since January of this year? Another panic. I knew just from reading some info and talking to others that meant that I had a deadline coming up in just a few days. I had to sign up for a supplemental insurance policy and medication policy or I could lose out on tens of thousands of dollars. And Monday was a holiday. That meant that I had Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to make phone calls and sign up.

    This is no small task. I take 19 prescription medications, one of which is a weekly injection. The doctor that prescribes that had actually been working on getting an exception because my condition has been worsening. I reached out to the Minnesota SHIP office to talk about supplemental plans and medication plans. We found a supplemental plan that costs hundreds a month but could possibly transfer if I moved out of state. For the meds, I plugged in all of the names and we found out the injectable is not covered. It costs $37,000. Welcome to the world of rare diseases! So I had to call the manufacturer and talk to them about a patient assistance program, which might also allow me to get on a higher dose.

    So now back to Arizona. When I talked to their local office that helps seniors find supplemental plans for Medicare, they couldn’t believe that a disabled person under 65 had a disability check that was above poverty level. It isn’t a huge amount, mind you, but it doesn’t meet the standards for poverty. So I can’t qualify for medical assistance as my supplement, which is their only option in Arizona. I also can’t qualify for utilities assistance, transportation assistance or food assistance. The woman on the phone had very little experience but offered to find out more info and call me back. When she did, she told me to buy the policy in Minnesota and take it with me, as there was no hope for me in Arizona. 

    So Wednesday afternoon, I purchased the supplemental plan for Medicare and verified it could come with me (in writing) if I moved out of state. It’s possible it’s going to become much more expensive, but not nearly as expensive as having nothing.

    Thursday I finished sifting through all of the medication plans and tried to pick the best one. It was the least restrictive with the medications that I currently take (most of them wanted to restrict my Singulair, for some reason, of which I need double the normal dose). So I managed to get everything signed up before my June 1st deadline.

    However, while all of this is going on, there’s something else that’s been cooking in the month of May.

    Actually, this started in March. I had a crown fall off. A bunch of decay was discovered – first on that tooth with the crown, then the tooth next to it, then two teeth above it, then a bunch of cavities all over my mouth and it’s painful to eat or drink. I actually had to file a complaint against my dentist that I was seeing for about 2.5 years because he was physically abusive. When he was examining or treating me, he would pull my mouth roughly – so much so that the last time he left bloody fingerprints all over my exam napkin, and I had a swollen face for five days after. It was only after my massage therapist asked me who had been abusive with me that I filed the complaint.

    The complaint was supposed to have been anonymous, according to my insurance. However, they revealed all of my info, and the dentist counter-complained (like I was the asshole, because I was the one sitting in the chair with my mouth open). Then my insurance told me to go to two other dentists, which I did, and then they told me to go to my original dentist, and he refused (DUH), all to get this decay and a root canal taken care of. The two new dentists told me that they wanted me to go fully under and to be in an oral surgeon’s office or hospital because of my anaphylaxis history as well as my inability to numb with Novocaine. They referred me either to the U of MN or to Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC).

    I called the U of MN for five days straight, and got different answers each day. They would say they didn’t do sedation, or didn’t take care of complicated patients like me, or were too booked. In the end, I got nowhere. So I turned my attention to HCMC, which happens to be a trauma 1 hospital. They told me they weren’t taking new patients (a huge lie). Then they told me to get a note from my doctor specifying which medications I’m taking – but that was only after they refused to answer my messages for 3 weeks. They wanted to see if my medical assistance would run out before they had to do anything.

    Well, ta da! First day of no medical assistance, June 1st! That means I get absolutely no dental coverage. So even though they have been aware of this issue for a few months and I’ve done everything they told me to do, I got zero help. By the way, it’s likely I’m having the trouble with the decay in my mouth because the abusive dentist put metal back in my mouth even though I told him in writing and verbally many times I’m allergic. I found out after the two other dentists examined me that he put metal-based crowns in my mouth after I paid thousands to remove all the metal in my mouth because of my allergies.

    I’ve already talked to my dental office that I used to go to in Chandler, Arizona for 11 years, and they have an in-house plan. For $100 a year I can have my cleanings, checkups and x-rays, and then 20% off of fillings and other stuff. So that’s the route I’m going to have to take. Plus I like them and I know they’re not going to rip me up and make me bleed on purpose.

    If there was ever a time that I have felt the impact of being poor and being female and being ignored completely, this is certainly one of those times. I’m sure I’ll have many more opportunities.

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Please, Sir, May I Have Some More?

My parents’ generation were the product of parents who lived through the Great Depression. My grandparents had to be creative with their resources; the flour companies started making pretty prints on their flour sacks once they figured out that mothers across America were using the sacks to make dresses. Re-purposing so that nothing went to waste, our grandparents were also guilty of turning their yards and barns into trash heaps. They were fearful of throwing anything away in case it would be needed in the future.

My parents’ generation, the baby boomer generation, turned around and said to their kids, “I’m going to give you everything I didn’t have,” which really meant that they wanted their kids to have new stuff. This started a trend of some of my classmates actually having cars being purchased for them, or having college tuition being paid for them, and by middle class – not wealthy – parents. Credit cards also started circulating heavily and regulations became non-existent, making it incredibly easy to rack up debt.

Now my peers are struggling to make ends meet and are in debt up to their ears while still providing cars and tuition and pocket-sized computers to their children as if they are staples, not privileges.

There’s a lot of talk about going back to basics and scaling back, while also teaching our children about how to manage money and understanding the consequences of debt.

I’m in a different kind of quandary, however. I need to figure out how to be poor. I mean really, really poor, in the current system – not what it was, and not what we wish it would be.

Back in 1995 when I took the road trip around the U.S. to pick a new place to live and ran out of money and said, “Okay, Albuquerque!”, I was poor. I landed with $100 and slept on someone’s futon for a month. But I was also able-bodied and picked up two jobs and moved into an apartment within a few weeks. I still had times where I lived off of $10 a week for groceries, but this is a little different. This is finite.

I sat down with the financial planner at my bank and figured out the rest of my bills for this year. However, I’m really stressing about my bed. It’s sagging and I can feel the springs poking through even with a thick foam topper – really bad for my fibromyalgia – and it’s only a year and a half old, and I’ve worn through it because I’m in bed for about 20-22 hours every day. Sleep Number is running a sale right now through September 11th and I could replace this bed for about $1100 including their least expensive base, and that would take care of the springs issue and would probably last 6-10 years. Do I buy it? Or does buying it now put me that much closer to eviction next year? If I’m evicted, what am I going to do with the bed? If I get housing at some point down the line, I’m going to need it again, uncontaminated by mold/dust/dander because of my mast cell disease.

I’ve had alopecia since the age of 3, and I lost my hair completely 14 years ago. There is a 30% off sale going on right now, which would give me a considerable discount on the wig I usually wear. Should I get that instead of a bed (it’s much less expensive)? Should I just give up on wigs now anyway because if I’m evicted next year for non-payment I won’t be able to afford them anyway and I don’t deserve to be so vain?

I have enough in my account to get me through to November of 2017. I’m a worrier by nature. All I can think about is, what am I going to do if I get turned down for disability? I mean, I hope the disability hearing happens by November 2017, because I filed for it in February 2016, and they are running 18-22 months behind (but just in case I have my senator flagging this case as “congressional interest”). Priority housing is given to people who are verified as disabled or who have children; if I am not verified as disabled (because I don’t have a diagnosis) and I don’t have children, I won’t have enough “points” to qualify for housing. All of my friends and family have pets and I’m deathly allergic, so moving in with them is not an option.

I’m concerned about both my mom’s health and my mom and step-dad’s financial stability, and my step-mom’s husband’s health and their financial stability. I’m concerned about my sister’s health and her family’s financial well-being. I’m concerned about my brother’s brand new baby who is due in the next few weeks and his little family’s financial stability. I recognize that they all have grave concerns of their own while they try to shield me from them and simultaneously try to take care of me. Certainly none of them can afford to pay for another adult’s living expenses.

I receive notices from friends telling me that I should support certain causes. I’ve said repeatedly that I don’t have any income and I won’t for at least another year, if at all, but they take “income” to mean working income. They just assume that I receive disability, even though I’ve said repeatedly and clearly that I’ve been turned down for disability numerous times. It wears me out to worry about being homeless, and I’m pretty overwhelmed by all the stuff I have to do to further my own cause since all of the offers of help were not really followed up on except by a select few, and it’s humiliating that I have to repeat myself to be heard.

This weekend I had a former fuck buddy hit me up out of the blue after years of silence to try to give me shit about moving back to my home state, mocking me about my claim that I was done with snow and cold when I moved to Arizona in 2003. I told him that I was pretty fucking sick and had stumped 54 doctors so far and could no longer live without assistance; he said he was working on three hangovers and he was sorry I was sick. He loves to talk about how he’s tired of welfare assholes, and I’m sure he thinks I’m one now too. We can’t even really have a conversation with each other anymore because in his eyes as well as in the view of the government, I have no value.

So where is the class that teaches me to navigate being homeless on the streets in a snow state? Do I get a free map to all of the soup kitchens? Where’s the best place to stash my cart outside while I warm up and surf the net in the library? How do I make a shank?