Tenn. couple separates to keep health insurance

(WBIR-Maryville) - 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. It's been a very important thing to me," 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," Larry Drain said. "I've seen her go through brain surgery. We've been through a lot."

The Maryville couple said governmental policies have forced them to separate after 33 years of marriage. They are among 162,000 Tennesseans who got caught in an insurance coverage gap after the Affordable Care Act went into effect and Governor Haslam decided not to expand Medicaid.

RELATED: Democrats bemoan lack of Medicaid expansion

"Shortly after I took the retirement, Social Security called and told us we made too much money and they had a limit on unearned income. I said 'how can my retirement be unearned income' and they said legally it is," Larry Drain 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. Linda would have lost her Supplemental Security Income and if she continued to live with him. As a result, she would lose her TennCare coverage also.

Larry said they did what they needed to do for her health.

"On December the 26th, after 33 years of marriage, we separated and Linda went to live with her mom," he said.

The Drains said they make too little to qualify for ObamaCare. Both 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.

Now the Drains live about two miles apart and Larry is working a part-time job just to make ends meet. But Linda said she is confident one day they will be together again.

"I'm not in control, he's not in control. I do believe all things work out for a reason," she said.

Governor Haslam's office has 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."

WBIR reached out to TennCare about the situation and didn't receive a response.

(Copyright Gannett 2014)


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