Please introduce yourself.
Esther Murphy: My name is Esther Murphy. I live in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Can you tell us about your Medicaid eligibility journey?
Esther Murphy: Once my disability started, I had a two year waiting list to get on Medicare. So my Medicaid was my only health insurance and I had something called, Extra Help from First Call for Help that helped me with my copays. Medicaid has been a lifesaver. I was able to receive the medicine I needed and it also covers the copays for my Medicare and it covers my deductible.
What have been some of the challenges that you have faced?
Esther Murphy: Finding practitioners that will accept Medicaid is a real struggle. Now, prior to having health insurance, I went to the North Fourth Street Clinic. It's now managed by Novant, but then it was a standalone, granted sliding scale, and I was basically no income. So, I had a minimum copay and when I received my Medicaid, I went back to that clinic and said, you know, I have insurance now and I'm gonna stay with you because, you know, y'all kept me alive when I didn't have anything. So I kept my medical chart with the North Fourth Street Clinic. Then they went through some changes and their founding physician went on his own. And so I followed him into his private practice. When he passed away, I didn't have a doctor for over two years; I couldn't find anyone that would take Medicare/Medicaid. And, finally a friend of his took on his former clients. So, I've been with Dr. Njapa for about eight years now. And I'll tell you something
Esther Murphy: And, I'll tell you something else. I'm bipolar and finding psychiatric care that will take Medicare/Medicaid has really been a struggle. Right now I receive my psychiatric medication care and therapy through Coastal Horizons and they've been excellent. I avoided going to them because I associated them with being a drug facility and I don't have an addiction issue, but when I finally turned to them because I had no place else to go. I've found that I've received excellent care there and they have a very good support network. For a little while after they closed, Southeastern Mental Health Center, which was run on my Medicare insurance, I was with a private company called Community Support Professionals and and I received some good guidance there. The first two years kind of rough. Last three years are ok. But then suddenly they went out of business; they just called me up one day and said that they didn't exist anymore. I was on my own again. So, finding mental health care that'll take my insurance has really been a challenge.
What is the hardest part about maintaining your Medicaid eligibility?
Esther Murphy: Well, I'm only permitted $2,000 in resources, which has been the same amount since 1998. And my social security is $1,200 a month and I had my car insurance was due and I let it sit in my bank account until my auto pay on my credit card came through and I went over my $2000 limit. On my, and, there's a flag on my bank account. So, actually this month I was, I received a letter that I was going to have to pay back all the money that Medicaid has ever provided for me because I'd gone over my $2000 amount in my checking account. So, I just simply paid my bills down early and had to prove that I didn't have that money in my account and it is, I have to live a very simple life and stay within my means. And, I know I'm gonna have car insurance bills every six months and I have renter's insurance. There's certain large payments that come up and, that are beyond what my, my monthly income is. So, it's a little tricky to, make sure that I'm in compliance with the $2,000 resource cap.
Any final thoughts you would like to share?
Esther Murphy: It was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life was to approach the Department of Social Services. Crossing that threshold was the biggest challenge and the one of the most terrifying things I've ever done because I come from a family that doesn't support mental illness. And, I did not know what was wrong with me; just that I was, I had been suffering for years and I was homeless. And the first worker I spoke to, the case worker, gave me a bag of food. Well, it was like noodles and and canned things and I didn't have a kitchen and there wasn't anything I could do with that food. But she made referrals. She told me to go to Social Security. I ended up involuntarily committed. But the subsidies, the insurance, have been lifesavers; and, I'm, I have a very satisfying life now.
Thank you for sharing your Medicaid story with us, Esther! If you want to join Esther and share your story, contact us.