When Dirty lost his job, almost 2 years ago, I immediately applied for health care for Nae and Zilla. That was the one AND only thing I cared about. There was NO way I was NOT going to have health care for them. Since Dirty was getting fairly good unemployment benefits, I assumed we would be paying something. Turns out, we didn't have to. Oregon has a program that every child gets health care benefits no matter what. BONUS! I wasn't concerned about health care for us, just the children. When I broke my hand, health insurance would have been nice, but because I am a college student, I qualified for grants to pay for surgery, doctor's appointments and physical therapy. That was HUGE, because my surgery ALONE was almost $10,000...EEK! Anyway, because Dirty was unemployed and I wasn't working or going to school at the time, we were able to get some food stamp benefits. That helped out a lot, even though it kind of sucked, the reality of it.
I started school last year and was told that loans aren't considered income so I didn't have to report that to them. When I went in for my yearly intake appointment last week, I told them anyway. I should've told them before, but it would have effected our benefits in OUR favor, so I didn't get in trouble for it. When I DID tell them I was going to school full time, I was told that I won't be included in the benefits unless I had a part time job or was in the federal work study program. Didn't make ANY sense to me, but OK? My case worker told me to bring in information on the work study program and he could include me in the benefits and we would be able to get insurance and maybe more food stamps. I wasn't in a hurry to give him the paperwork because the jobs don't get handed out until October 15, so I had no idea if I had a job through the school or not. I thought I was doing the right thing. Plus? We don't actually need more benefits, we're doing well with what we have. I didn't want to take anything that could be used for someone else. I'm aware the state doesn't work like this, but it didn't feel right to ME, and Dirty agreed. I was wrong :-| I got a phone call Friday from my case worker telling me I needed to give him that information and until I did so, our application was suspended. What...WHAT?!
He made it sound like it wasn't a "required" document, but then his phone call stated differently. I got the information and turned it in as soon as I got out of class on Friday. After talking to some people about all of this, I find out that I might qualify for cash benefits because I am a full time student and Dirty isn't working. I found this out through OTHER people, not from someone who works for the state. Shouldn't this have been information offered to me before? When I asked about it, I was told that this particular benefit is only for women who are in a life threatening situation or a family that has had their house burned down, etc. That is NOT the correct information! I am a full time student and ANY full time college student qualifies for this benefit. Apparently it's been around for awhile, because a few people have told me about it after I started asking around.
So, this morning, I filled out MORE paperwork for this cash assistance. As I was in the office talking to yet ANOTHER case worker, I see a lot of information on free health care and dental clinics for adults. There are at least 5 clinics in the area that either have hours where they take patients who don't have insurance or a clinic specifically for people who don't have health insurance. I also saw information on low cost medication for people without health insurance. I KNEW NONE OF THIS! It would have been great information to have when I broke my hand or even before. Just in case Dirty or I got sick and needed to go to the doctor. Right now if one of us gets sick, we have 3 choices; we go to the ER and have to pay a $200 detectable PLUS whatever the ER visit costs OR we suck it up and hope it isn't anything serious that needs antibiotics, or we can treat with home remedies. Why wasn't I given this information when I signed up the children for state insurance? They asked me if I had insurance, I told them no and they put our names in a lottery for insurance, but we didn't get picked. Maybe they could have given me a packet in information with all these names and numbers so we could go to the doctor if needed instead of going to the ER and paying an extraordinary amount or even not paying it at all (because the ER is EXPENSIVE)?
This all just seems SO back-ass-wards! Not to mention the fact that there are SO many more options for people on food stamps then just going to the grocery store and buying food there. Farmer's markets take food stamps! And so do some crop share programs, as does Costco. Once again, I didn't find out any of this information from the state, I got it from one of my professors last term.
In this state, if you're on WIC, (I have no idea about other states, since I live in Oregon) you have to go to some classes to make sure you're feeding your baby the right foods, help with breast feeding, and general care of your new infant. Granted, taking care of a baby is important and a lot of women need that, but shouldn't that be the same for the food stamp program? Shouldn't there be a class you have to go to and LEARN who takes food stamps and what foods are healthy and aren't? It seems like a no brainer, but there are people out there who don't KNOW! These classes could teach people how to eat and buy healthier foods, maybe even a cooking class? I'm sure I'm probably being a Polly Anna about this, but if there's funding for certain programs, there should be "how to" classes to go along with them?
It feels like if I wasn't going to school and neither Dirty or myself were working, we would be getting a lot more help, through the state, but because that's not the case, I'm having to DRAG information out of other people. So, because I am trying to do the right thing, I am having to jump through hoops while the woman down the street with a truck load of children and no job, gets everything handed to her. I can totally see why people use the system, it's so much fucking easier!
I'm frustrated and fed up. I'm not doing ANY of this for myself, I am doing it for my family. So my kids can go to the doctor when they need too. So when they ask me "can you get some yogurt at the store?" I can say "yes, no problem". And when they want to do a sport, I don't have to figure out where that $60 is going to come from. I wouldn't expect anyone to make this easy on me, I don't want it to be easy, but maybe a little forthcoming with information would be nice.
Is this an Oregon thing, or do other states have screwed up "help", too? Am I asking for too much? Should I just shut my mouth and be thankful for what I even have? Which I am, but frustrated as well.