As I write this I’m standing in line at the Illinois Social Services Office in the Humboldt Park section of Chicago. I’m here because something went off track in my effort to transfer my health insurance from New Jersey. Last year at about this time, I applied for insurance through the Healthcare Marketplace. The ACA was supposed to be a great benefit to the self-employed like me. And it was – until I moved.
The marketing of my business was largely put on hold this year because of my pending move. My part-time job doesn’t include healthcare. My lack of substantial income has made me eligible for low-cost or free healthcare through Illinois Medicaid. Lucky me. Sort of. I wasn’t given any other option. I received my notification of the determination from the Healthcare Marketplace in mid-August and was waiting for the specifics from the state (like I had received from New Jersey last year). When October rolled around and I still hadn’t received anything, I called. While the kind woman on the phone said she’d file a complaint, she said the best thing I could do to expedite my coverage was to come down here.
It should be noted that while I still have healthcare coverage with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of NJ that was obtained through the marketplace, participating doctors are only in New Jersey. Doesn’t do me much good here in Illinois. The finger that was injured almost eight weeks ago when my dog saw a squirrel isn’t healing and I need to get it examined. This is why disadvantaged people are kept down. Problems aren’t as easily solved, and life has a way of spiraling downward.
This is an important lesson in how the disadvantaged live, what they are subjected to and who makes up this group. Of the 50 or so people sharing the line with me and the few dozen sitting waiting for the next step, I am one of only four Caucasians. Other than that it’s a pretty diverse group of shapes, sizes, genders, and generations – toddlers and pregnant women and the elderly. Everyone is being patient and quiet. No one is angry or boasting a sense of entitlement to anything.
I’ve been here for a half hour. There are eight people still in line ahead of me.
This was not what I wanted to be doing today of course. I’m trying to focus on my business plan and creating a strategy for execution. I am trying not be distracted by the sense of despair I tend to feel at this time of year. The anniversary of my husband’s death is coming up on Saturday. I’ve learned over the last few years to ride the waves, and that yes, this too shall pass. But knowing that still doesn’t make the negative feelings or the depression go away. And times like this – waiting in line at a social services office – makes me long for everything I feel I let go – my six-figure income, my four-bedroom house in the wealthy suburbs of New York City, and yeah, employer based healthcare that didn’t require I wait on line to prove my eligibility.
Finally seen by an agent, I explain my issue; she tries to give me the number I called yesterday when I was told to come here. I was assertive and was then told to sit and wait for my name to be called. I’ve now been here for almost an hour. I am wondering if all of these people will be assertive to get what they need, or have they been beaten down enough by the system that they will backdown when confronted with a challenge.
I’ve been on edge and overly sensitive over the last week or two. I ran the Bucktown 5k on Sunday and felt really sad, homesick I guess, longing for the races where I knew so many of the other runners and race staff. I thought of the Cheers theme song, “where everybody knows your name.” No one knows my name here.
And yesterday, I needed a walk in the woods, to be surrounded by tall colorful maples and oaks, to climb to the top of a mountain to uplift my soul and embrace all that I still love about autumn. But that is so far away; I am so far, too, from anywhere I want to be at this very moment. Waiting.
I don’t like waiting. I’ve always been a doer. I’d rather drive out of my way than sit in traffic. I feel so much better when I’m moving. Movement makes me feel in control or at least like something’s happening – forward motion, accomplishment, miles logged.
After my name is called I explain, again, what has brought me here. I am told that there is a 60-day backlog on applications, and that providing a copy of my pay stub (why didn’t the woman on the phone yesterday tell me to bring that?) will assure that they have all they need to process my application. So after investing two and a half hours here, I have to return home to retrieve it and bring it back, and start over. They said at 3:30 the line might not be as long.
My daughter still needs to get her Illinois driver’s license. Tomorrow I was planning to take her to DVM. LOL.