A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Report From The Front: "I have heard desperation in our callers’ voices that I have not heard before"

Report From The Front: "I have heard desperation in our callers’ voices that I have not heard before"

July 20, 2010

[HCFA Helpline Counselor Hannah Frigand is on the frontline of what's happening in Massachusetts. Our Helpline volume is up, as some 1000 people a week call for assistance with their health coverage. For our callers, health care policy has personal dimension that can not be ignored. Hannah wrote this first-person report last week:]

Thousands of people are calling our HelpLine due to the impact of the hard decisions our state has had to make due to the economic climate. I have heard many stories and seen many trends since I began answering calls at the HelpLine four years ago. Throughout the last year I have heard desperation in our callers’ voices that I have not heard before. Today I’d like to share a few examples of these calls with you.

I receive calls about the impact of the MassHealth and Commonwealth Care dental cuts every day. I spoke with Wendy, from Oxford, who is in need of dentures to fill the gaps left in her mouth by extractions. She was approved for treatment, but she is not able to get the dentures because restorative dental care is no longer covered.

I speak with many people who are suffering a gap in health insurance coverage because Congress has failed to extend unemployment benefits. Each week 10,000 – 11,000 Massachusetts residents lose their unemployment benefits and oftenthey also lose their health insurance coverage. Others experience large gaps because they have to bounce from one state program to another during this hard time. I am working with Ron of Winchester, who has been unemployed for a year and a half and has had to transition his family from the Medical Security Program (through Unemployment) onto MassHealth. He has diabetes and his daughter has asthma and they have had to put off getting their medications while waiting to be confirmed by MassHealth in order to pay their mortgage.

Many people tell me that they have lost their homes or are struggling to make their house payment in order to keep their homes. I speak with people that have never been without work and for the first time they are unemployed and have no idea what to do. Folks call me every single day and tell me that they want to be working and providing for their families again.
-Hannah Frigand