Clara Franklin went from being a healthy, independent caregiver to relying on assistance programs to make ends meet after having two major strokes. She will be one of the many Oklahomans who will qualify for Medicaid once expansion is implemented. Do you have a health care story? Visit OKPolicy.org/MyStory.
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Clara Franklin has always had a passion for helping others. She worked as a caregiver for various families and individuals before her own health complications made that impossible.
“I remember I had a mean headache for two weeks. I thought it was just a sinus headache, but it got extremely bad,” she said. “I was at a patient’s house at the time, and he told me, ‘You don’t look very well. Let me take you to the hospital.’”
“If you don’t have insurance, one medication was $1,200. I rejected that one because we couldn’t even afford it. I was getting even more sick just knowing how much the costs were.”
The Del City resident declined and planned to drive straight home, but she says that’s not what happened.
“From his house to mine is like a block. I was just going home, but my car went right past my house and to the hospital,” she said. “The Lord was with me.”
When she got to the nearest hospital in Midwest City, Clara was told that she had experienced a major stroke.
“They said I had probably also had several ministrokes in the time that I felt the headaches,” she said. “They told me if I had gone home, I would’ve died.”
In the two months prior to her medical incident, Clara’s clients at the time had just put her on health insurance, which covered some costs. However, once she could no longer work, she lost her employment and her medical coverage.
“They handled me at the beginning, but then they dropped me,” she said. “Then I couldn’t get insurance anywhere at all.”
Clara did not qualify for Medicaid, so she found herself in the health care coverage gap struggling to afford her medications. She applied for various welfare assistance programs to help make ends meet. But two weeks after being in the hospital, Clara had a second stroke.
“My son and I were having lunch, and I said, ‘I think I’m having a stroke, son. Please take me to Mercy,’” Clara said. “He drove me from Midwest City all the way to Mercy Hospital, and I didn’t have any insurance or anything like that.”
“(Supporting me) put my son back because he has diabetes himself. He neglected himself for me.”
Fortunately, Clara was approved for Mercy Project Access, a program that provided medical assistance to uninsured individuals. Community health workers would visit Clara at her home. Even with this assistance, Clara could not afford all her medications, so her son helped her financially.
“(Supporting me) put my son back because he has diabetes himself. He neglected himself for me,” she said. “I mean, hundreds of hundreds of dollars. If you don’t have insurance, one medication was $1,200. I rejected that one because we couldn’t even afford it. I was getting even more sick just knowing how much the costs were.
“If you know how much the medication costs but you can’t afford it, that makes you not want it. You’re afraid that you’re not going to be able to eat or pay rent. You have to survive on what you have, and it’s hard because you stress about it. Your mind is constantly going.”
Clara was grateful for the care she received through Mercy’s program, but says insurance would have helped her heal much faster.
“Oh my gosh, insurance would have helped me so much. I mean, I’m still trying to heal,” she said. “My brain function is not all there, and a lot of the medications were for my brain. Having insurance would’ve helped me so much.”
Once Clara told a community health worker at Mercy that she could not afford the medications her doctor was prescribing, she was connected to Variety Care, an Oklahoma City-based non-profit health center with a program that helps patients receive free medication for a year.
“My Mercy doctor writes my prescription, and I take it to Variety Care,” she said. “They look it over, and I’m able to get my medication for free – the two key medicines I need. They make sure that I have it.”
“I do what I can with what I have. Medicines are so expensive. I’m grateful for what I have now, but when I don’t have it, that’s when I’m going to be afraid. Am I going to shortcut myself and skip days?”
Clara will lose access to the program in the upcoming year.
“I have zero income. I can’t work,” she said. “I do what I can with what I have. Medicines are so expensive. I’m grateful for what I have now, but when I don’t have it, that’s when I’m going to be afraid. Am I going to shortcut myself and skip days?”
Being in the health care coverage gap forced Clara to have to go through various organizations and programs to receive enough assistance for her medications. Medicaid would have allowed her to receive care and medications right away, without the additional stress of seeking other assistance programs.
Fortunately, Clara is one of the 200,000+ low-income Oklahomans who will be eligible for Medicaid once expansion is implemented, which is set to be done no later than July 1, 2021.
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