Since Tennessee's health care laws forced Larry and Linda Drain to separate after 33 years of marriage, yet another health care proposition that inspired "hope" for the couple has come and gone.
As the pair explained to HuffPost Live last year, when Larry opted for early retirement, his retirement benefits exceeded the limit on unearned income to qualify for TennCare, Tennessee's public insurance program. That left the couple in the health care "coverage gap," meaning the Drains' household income was too high to qualify for TennCare, yet too low to qualify for a subsidy under Obamacare. Without insurance, Linda could not afford her costly epilepsy medication.
"We had no way out. In order to keep her alive, in order to keep the medicine that she needed to have, we ended up, after 33 years of marriage, separating the day after Christmas," Larry said.
The couple's struggles have continued since their separation, they told host Alyona Minkovski on Friday.
Larry sent countless letters to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam asking him to expand TennCare, but his office was unresponsive, Larry said. The couple faced another blow when Haslam's Insure Tennessee plan, which would have expanded health care coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans, never even made it out of the state's Senate Health Committee.
"It crushed me. It was my hope. It was my hope," Larry said.
Linda described the "hardship" the couple has faced has since she moved 25 miles away from Larry to find subsidized housing. Linda explained:
It's really been a change that neither one of us expected. … It's been costly because the gas expense is enormous for his income and mine. ... It's not something that's within our budget to see each other whenever we would like, and the maintenance on the car is another consideration.
While the Drains seek a more permanent living situation, visits are few and far between.
"Right now I just plan on him coming to Knoxville about once a week or so. And that's not ideal," Linda said.
But the couple mentioned that they've had at least one small victory during their tumultuous ordeal. Despite the severity of Linda's epilepsy, TennCare had planned to pull coverage for her Lamictal, the medicine that she takes to control her seizures. When Linda had just a few days of medicine left, the program reversed its decision, preserving her steady supply of the drug.
Watch the clip above to hear more from the couple in their own words.
Check out the full HuffPost Live conversation here.
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