I got a call from one of our college students this past week. Sarah (not her real name) is a sophomore in college. She has always been independent. Sarah was placed in foster care when she was around 9 years old. She was adopted, I believe, around 12 or 13.
Though her adopted mom wanted her to go to college, she did not have a great knowledge about what it took to get her there, nor did she have the money to send her. Sarah took the initiative to figure out the process herself. She talked to caseworkers to figure out what benefits she could get from the foster care system. She filled out paperwork. She made phone calls. She ended up getting in to the college of her choice and actually, through the government/foster care system as well as through the pell grants, she has all of her college paid for (please don't think this is every case...most other students, even with a full pell grant, still need to take out loans and struggle to make it financially through college. Hers is an exception due to her foster/adoption status).
The Spring of her freshman year in college, her adopted mom was diagnosed with cancer and passed away not long after. Right around that same time, Sarah turned19. Though Sarah had received Medicaid up until then, she was no longer eligible once she turned 19. When she attempted to apply as a 19-year old, they told her that because she was in college, there are grants available and she didn't need Medicaid. Huh???? I don't get that. She may have received school grants, but there aren't grants to pay for her dental care! And the money she receives isn't exactly making her wealthy! It's getting her through school. Sarah gets by because she manages her money extremely well.
Sarah's adopted mom had no savings or anything to pass on to Sarah. Though her biological mom and sister are in her life, Sarah is on her own. She takes care of herself completely. Can you remember being 19? Can you imagine being in college and figuring out adulthood and all of the complications of adulthood without any financial support from a parent and without any job-related income? I can't imagine!
When Sarah called me, as always she didn't ask for a handout. Sarah was calling for advice and information about how she could access dental care. She just wanted her eroding filling fixed so she didn't have to take pain medication every day. Out of the two dentists she tried, one was not taking new patients and the other one charged $75 just to assess the situation. She is afraid the procedure may cost hundreds more after the assessment. Sarah just wanted to know if there was a dentist who would accept a payment plan...even though she also knew a payment plan for an expensive dental procedure would probably deplete the money she has saved so that she can pay her own expenses in school (phone, food, etc.).
We ended up working it out so that she can go to Central Dallas's dental clinic hopefully as a walk-in so she will only have to pay the $15 fee. She will have to miss a day of school, but she is in so much pain she is willing to do that.
This whole process has been frustrating to me. She is asking for nothing except necessary healthcare. She is doing everything right. She is budgeting her limited funds. She is attending college. She has applied for an 18 hour/week job to add to her 16 hour course load.
Sarah can't afford a monthly health insurance policy. Even if she did get independent health insurance, I'm not sure that it would help her that much. I've heard those independent policies cost a lot of money and don't offer the benefits that a big company insurance plan could offer.
When you think about whether our country should offer a national health care plan or at least revise what we now offer, please think of Sarah.