Story by Brenda Goodman
Photos by Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography
Ines, 55, lost her job in August 2011. Reeling from the layoff and struggling to pay their bills, Ines and her husband planned to move to Florida, where friends had offered them a place to stay and opportunities for full-time work seemed brighter. Two months later, those plans got put on hold when Ines was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer.
To keep her health insurance benefits from her former job, she made steep $780 monthly payments for COBRA coverage for a few months. But the money from her severance check soon ran out. Luckily, she qualified for Georgia's Medicaid program. That allowed her to finish chemotherapy and radiation and to have reconstructive surgery after a double mastectomy.
"I've been in shock with the cancer," she says. "I don't know how Obamacare will affect me. I'm lost."
Ines's husband moved to Tallahassee, FL. But she's had to stay in Georgia to keep her health benefits and finish her cancer treatment. She rents a room in Marietta and picks up freelance work as a translator. She estimates she'll make $30,000 this year. She visits her husband when she can. Moving to join him would be hard, she says, because she'd have to reapply for Medicaid in Florida and find new doctors. She takes the drug Arimidex every day and will need to see a cancer doctor every 3 months for the next 5 years.
She says she doesn't know if she'll continue to qualify for Medicaid because her income is unpredictable. The agency she works for offers benefits, but she's worried the coverage will cost too much because of her recent cancer treatments.
She feels uncertain about the changes coming when the Affordable Care Act takes full effect next year, but expects to look into Georgia's new health insurance Marketplace when it opens Oct. 1.
Update: Dec. 11
Ines was able to look at some plans on Healthcare.gov despite problems with the web site. However, because she still isn't working and the premiums are out of her reach, she is going to remain on Medicaid.