Correction to yesterday’s post (https://annecwoodlen.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/for-want-of-5-00/): I wrote “There is a county benefit card”; in fact, it’s a New York State benefit card.
So (continuing from yesterday) what Melissa, the Chronic Care caseworker, does is immediately deny all responsibility for the badly written letter by saying, “The letter came from Albany.” This is always the answer. These letters that us poor folk constantly receive are written by some idiot in the state government. Some idiot who can’t write. Some idiot who never runs it by an average citizen to see if it makes sense. Some idiot who is getting very, very well-paid with your money. State Civil Service salaries are higher than county salaries.
When I ask Melissa why I now have to pay a “spend-down” of $5.00 she says it is because I am “over income,” then she rapidly runs through a bunch of numbers: my gross Social Security is $938.90 a month; the Medicare withholding is $104.90, leaving me with $834 cash income. Then she says something about $809, and a “$20 disregard” and some other numbers, rattled off too quickly to write down. The government has a $20 disregard? What the heck is that? In the lives of us poor folks, we only have a $0.01 disregard. We regard everything over a penny.
So Melissa decides that she will clear my Medicaid ineligibility for one month and send me the letter again. She doesn’t. Instead she sends me a Notice of Intent to Discontinue/Change Medical Assistance. It says “Change in income as follows: 2014 Social Security COLA increase resulting in $5.00 monthly spend down. Send $5.00 monthly to: Cashier’s Office . . .”
The first problem is that what Melissa told me is not what Melissa wrote me. She said my Medicare deduction was $104.90; she wrote that it is $124.90. Oh-h-h, do you suppose that’s the $20 disregard? What—I’m supposed to disregard Medicare getting a twenty percent increase? So now she says that the balance I receive is $814 instead of $834—except that from some other source (perhaps my bank statement) it was confirmed as $834.
To the best of my recollection (all my important papers having been moved by strangers nine times last year, i.e., all documentation is lost) I was receiving $821 from Social Security. Now I’m getting $834 except Melissa says it is $814. So I’m receiving something between $814 and $834—that’s $20, so shall we disregard it?
The issue is this: county employee Melissa is incompetent. She has given me two sets of figures that are mutually inconsistent and only one of which might justify the spend-down of $5.00. A very long time ago—I’ve been on Medicaid since 1991—I also had a spend-down. It was a nightmare of impossible rules. Can you mail the cashier cash? Most poor folk don’t have checking accounts. Do you have to go down to the Cashier’s Office to pay cash?
Centro’s Call-a-Bus charges $5.00 for round-trip transportation, so what the county receives as $5.00 costs me $10.00. My recollection is that the Cashier’s Office is only open limited hours, and there was only a very narrow window of days in which to make the payment—something like you couldn’t pay it before the first of the month but had to pay it before the third of the month.
And they were always getting it screwed up and declaring you ineligible when, in fact, you’d made the payment but they hadn’t recorded it, or some damn thing. And oh, by the way, Melissa’s Notice of Intent does not say anything about how the $5.00 is to be paid—cash, check or money order—nor does it say a single word about WHEN it is to be paid. Just any old time I feel like it? No? They had cut me off by the seventh of the month, so when do I have to get the payment in?
So, to recapitulate, what us poor folk have to deal with are—
• Incomprehensible letters from the state
• Incompetent county employees
• Disrespect and the expectation of submissiveness
• Hours spent on the phone trying to straighten things out
• And all for $5.00.
I went to see a lawyer about being illegally denied Medicaid transportation. His final take on the matter was “If you can’t get Medicaid transportation, why don’t you just take a taxi?” Rich folk have absolutely no comprehension of what it means to be poor. They think you’re using Medicaid transportation just to rip off the rich people and that, actually, you have tons of money squirreled away that you just don’t want to spend.
One month I had $0.08 left before my next Social Security Disability check arrived. Please understand this, my dear readers: most of us poor folks HAVE NO MONEY IN THE LAST FOUR DAYS OF THE MONTH. None. Zero, zilch, zip. Do you understand the concept of “penniless?” No cigarettes, no coffee, no beer, no quick trips to the convenience store, no bus fare.
I am smart enough to have become a better money-manager over the years. I live in a HUD-subsidized building with 175 other people, 95% of whom are also poor and not so smart. Now do you understand why people are panhandling?
Your money is not going to help the poor people; it is going to pay the incompetent Melissas in county government.