Deb and Curtis Lockwood have lived and worked in the Fremont, Nebraska, area for most of their lives. They raised children, welcomed grandchildren, and began to plan for a comfortable retirement. As far as anyone could see, they were living the American dream.
When Medicaid expanded in the state in late 2018, the Lockwoods did not believe they would need it. After one unexpected injury and a bureaucratic nightmare, today, they find themselves waiting for coverage they desperately need.
In September 2018, on his way to his first new job in over 30 years, Curtis was involved in a serious car accident. From that point on, family gatherings and days on the river were replaced with constant worry about covering their medical expenses.
Curtis remained hospitalized for a long time, and Deb stayed with him. Knowing he was going to need a full-time caregiver, Deb attempted to obtain a leave of absence from her job with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Yet, after years as a social worker with the department, helping people navigate the system of services, Deb had no choice but to resign from her work to remain at home.
If a major injury and inability to work were not enough, they now had to confront out-of-pocket health insurance payments.
“It put the breaks on,” said Deb “We had to really think about what mattered most.”
Facing a monthly medical bill of a few thousand dollars, there is little room for error. Simple daily activities have become extravagant as every resource goes toward maintaining health.
“We’re talking about quality of life,” she said. “Without our health, we can’t have any of those things.”
The future for the Lockwoods is uncertain. Because neither of them is able to work, they have been forced to dip into their retirement savings to cover basics and health insurance premiums. Curtis has applied for disability insurance because he is unable to work. Financial assistance may come in the next few months, but there is no guarantee. Even if Curtis is able to obtain aid, Deb will be left without any insurance for herself.
As a full-time caregiver, Deb can only leave home without Curtis for a limited time. Working from home is the only option for significant income. They remain faithful that a break will come.
Deb and Curtis are hardworking Nebraskans. When they voted to expand Medicaid, they expected people in their situation to be covered. Now that they need assistance, their vote has been regarded with contempt.
Every day without insurance is one away from their normal life. Nebraskans called upon the state to repair this flaw in the health care system. The delay may be a few more months for the state. To the Lockwoods, it is their entire life.