Trapped in America's Safety Net

Trapped in America's Safety Net

One Family's Struggle

Andrea Louise Campbell

Just look at the calculators and figure it out, they advised. But I can’t—not with any certainty, to my enormous frustration. So much for helping my brother and sister-in-law navigate the system. Medi-Cal is a collection of over one hundred programs, each with its own income methodology and rules. A person familiar with Medi-Cal likened the program to the Winchester Mystery House, the San Jose mansion constructed continually over four decades by the odd widow of the Winchester rifle fortune: there is no master plan. “All the ‘rooms’ added on over the years makes it very difficult to see which rules apply to which groups and to follow them all the way through,” this observer told me. And even if Dave and Marcella could retain a bit more income to live on, they are still subject to the asset limit and all of Medi-Cal’s other strictures. They are still trapped in an eccentric’s mansion, where the stairways lead to ceilings and the doors open onto walls.

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