Tennessee couple separates to keep health insurance

MARYVILLE, Tenn. (CNN) – A Tennessee couple says they were forced to separate after 33 years of marriage in order to keep their health insurance.

Linda Drain said the day she said “I do” was the best day of her life.
“I believe that my marriage is about commitment and love and support,” she said.

Her husband Larry said he planned on being with Linda forever. He promised to be by her side through sickness, health, and her constant battle with epilepsy.

“We have been at points and times where a good day was 10-15 grand mal seizures, I’ve seen her go through brain surgery. We’ve been through a lot,” he said.

The Social Security Administration doesn’t allow a couple to make more than $1,102 when the income is not from wages. When Larry Drain decided to enter retirement, his check was less than his old paycheck but it was still too much.

“Shortly after I took the retirement, Social Security called us in and told us we made too much money,” he said. “That they had a limit on unearned income, I tried to tell them ‘how could my retirement be unearned income?’ They said, well it is, legally it is.”

Larry says his wife would have lost her SSI and if she continued to live with him, as a result, she would lose her Tenncare coverage also.

“On December the 26th, after 33 years of marriage, we separated.”

The Drains said they make too little to qualify for the Affordable Care Act.  Both of them would have qualified for Tenncare while still living together if Tennessee had expanded its Medicaid program.

“In order to keep my wife alive, I can’t live with her. Unless Governor Haslam chooses to expand Medicaid, I’ll never be able to live with her,” Larry Drain said.

The Drains live about two miles apart and Larry is working a part-time job just to make ends meet.

Governor Haslam’s office released this statement about the situation:

“Governor Haslam believes that more people having access to healthcare is a good thing, but you have to do in a way that controls costs and provides for better outcomes. The governor and administration continue to have discussions with HHS and CMS about the Tennessee Plan, the governor’s approach for a third path to real healthcare reform for Tennessee.”

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