KNOXVILLE, TN (WVLT/Gray News) – Weighed down with high medical bills, a doctor offered this prescription for an east Tennessee couple: get a divorce.
Angela and Randy Tindell don’t want to split up, but financially, it makes some sense.
If they got a divorce, Angela Tindell could file for TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program, as an unemployed single parent. Then, there would be state aid to pay for their son Jackson’s medical expenses.
State lawmakers are considering a bill that would grant TennCare coverage to a greater number of children with disabilities. It would mean parents could make more money and still qualify for coverage.
Jackson, now in kindergarten, had a rough start to life, spending the first months of it in the neonatal intensive care unit.
“He’s come a long way,” Angela Tindell said. “There was a time they deemed him medically fragile, which meant we’re not guaranteeing that this baby will survive. He’s always been a fighter.”
At 6 years old, Jackson still requires lots of care. He receives speech, occupational and feeding therapy. The formula he gets through a feeding tube costs $1,700 a month.
"You know that your child needs this therapy, or he may need a procedure, but you also know that there is no physical way that you can come up with that kind of money," Randy Tindell said.
He said he has a good job to support his family and take care of Jackson, but insurance is expensive and still doesn’t cover everything. Monthly bills are in the thousands.
All his therapists and doctors tell the family they’re shocked Jackson's not currently on TennCare because of the level of medical attention he requires.
“We make too much money, and our household income is too high,” Tindell said.
The bill to expand TennCare coverage has already received unanimous approval in one of its committees. It needs more to make it through the finance committee before it goes for a full vote in the Senate.