Van and Renda

Sparta, 2020
An illustrative graphic that shows a simplified hand holding a protest sign. On the protest sign, "Van and Renda" is written.

“If you develop an illness around the age of 45 and you can’t get on Medicare until 65, you’ve been sick for twenty years by that point. That’s not right.”

Van is a 56-year-old resident of Sparta, Missouri. He and his wife Renda have a variety of illnesses that they try to manage despite their limited access to care. The couple applied for Medicaid a few years ago, but their application was denied because they owned a home. Van qualified for SSI disability seven years ago and relies on this for the oxygen he uses full time, as well as their bills and groceries. Van states, “We are so lucky to have this disability check, our illnesses keep us from working and it’s the only way we survive but we are barely getting by.”

Renda suffers from restless leg syndrome, thyroid problems, high blood pressure, and neuropathy in her feet. She has also had two essential surgeries. While Van navigates his health concerns in a well-respected hospital, Renda is less fortunate. She is currently uninsured and struggles to find affordable care for her health conditions.

The couple wants people to know how hard it is for older adults to access care in Missouri. As Van states, “There really aren’t healthcare options for people without disabilities and before the age of 65. Older adults have a lot more possibility for health problems and that begins much earlier than 65. If you develop an illness around the age of 45 and you can’t get on Medicare until 65, you’ve been sick for twenty years by that point. That’s not right, it really feels like older people have been forgotten."

Van and Renda have since moved from their home into an apartment. They have reapplied for Medicaid and are hopeful that their new financial situation will increase the chances of them getting approved this time around. As Van states, “Getting Medicaid would change everything for us. My wife could get the care she needs to keep herself healthy instead of waiting til she was sick. We could have more money to live off of, it really would change our lives.”

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