Story Bank: Cassandra, Sanford

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Cassandra Provencher, 33, Sanford

Cassandra was playing soccer with her daughter when her legs began to lock up. She had no idea what was going on. Cassandra was incredibly active in the past, but since having her fourth child has been busy caring for her family and maintaining her salon business, as well as helping with her husband’s business.

She immediately called her sister who is an athletic trainer. When Cassandra realized she couldn't stretch her legs at all, she rushed to a walk-in clinic. She was sent home with medication to help her with the pain.

After a few weeks, she began to feel better and was ready to join a parents versus kids soccer match with her daughter’s team. Soon, her legs began to lock up again. “I was like, ‘What is going on?’” said Cassandra.

When Cassandra went to the doctor for a checkup, she noticed a large mass on her leg and both legs began to feel numb. She was sent to the emergency room immediately.

She needed an MRI, but held off because the testing was too expensive. She walked out of the emergency room with fear, not knowing her exact diagnosis. “I was thinking, ‘My kids need me,’” said Cassandra.

Cassandra was one of many that had MaineCare up until state eligibility rules were changed. It was not until 2016 that Cassandra and her family learned about the changes to their MaineCare eligibility status. She now has insurance through the Marketplace Exchange. She is worried that other families are experiencing the same loss of coverage and increase in medical debt, as well as altering their life plans that no longer seem achievable under financial constraint.

“No one deserves to go into a doctor’s office or emergency room and have to worry about more bills,” said Cassandra. “For us, we can’t even get another loan.”

As a self-employed entrepreneur, Cassandra’s health insurance is nearly unaffordable. Her husband, also self-employed, runs a drywall and construction business and has had to increase his hours significantly to help pay for their health insurance.

“I think people look at us and say, ‘You're in business, so you're rich,’” said Cassandra. “If we make more, we could lose our benefits. My husband is working later hours to help pay for health insurance, just about until 7:30 every night, sometimes until 10.”

Since losing her health insurance through MaineCare, Cassandra feels as if her access to health care services has dwindled. Aside from her struggles to find care for her leg, acquiring mental health services has been difficult as well.

“MaineCare—it changed my life, so not to have it and to go through this, it's scary,” said Cassandra. “I feel like my needs were met on MaineCare. Now, I don't feel like I get the one-hundred percent care that I need. Sometimes I feel as if my voice doesn’t matter.”

Her doctors are still unsure of her medical diagnosis, and she is worried that her medical bills will accumulate substantially as she must complete further testing.  

“Having four kids and worrying that I have cancer, it’s scary,” said Cassandra. “Healthcare is so important. [It’s scary that] a doctor is worried about your medical bills, and if you would like to get further testing in an emergency room, you can’t because it costs more. Health care is supposed to be there to help and protect you.”

Cassandra often reflects on her positive experiences with MaineCare. In the past, she has had her children’s preventive, routine health care covered and has been able to focus on other aspects of her life without the stress that comes with medical debt.

Cassandra, being the second oldest child in her family, with her mother and grandmother, helped raise her four siblings and knows the struggle some parents face to have their children’s health care needs met. MaineCare was a significant help to Cassandra and her husband when they were just beginning their family. That’s why, today, Cassandra is using her voice to be a strong MaineCare advocate for other families in her community.

“I wouldn’t be who I am today without MaineCare,” said Cassandra. “If we can’t take care of ourselves, we can’t be good wives, mothers, sisters, friends, etcetera. It is inconsistent and frustrating when parents need to take care of themselves the right way to be there for our kids. I want others to be able to have what helped me.”