Story Bank: Janice, Swanville

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Janice, 55, Swanville

Janice was reaching for the sewing scissors she frequently used while making U.S. military uniforms at Little River Apparel when she felt something pop.

"I thought, 'Well it's probably just tendons and stuff moving over the bones,'" she said. "I just kept working."

It was not long before Janice began to experience painful spasms in her neck and back. She had ruptured multiple vertebrae. 

Janice received workers’ compensation from her employer, but she still struggled to get the medical care she needed.

Because Janice does not qualify for MaineCare and cannot afford health insurance through the Marketplace, she needed to figure out a way to help pay for her medical needs, quickly.

Janice gained employment at L.L. Bean and Jackson Hewitt, a tax preparations agency, during their peak seasons. When her seasonal jobs ended, she was unemployed for three months before landing a job with a call center.

By November 2015, Janice was experiencing so much pain, she had to stop work completely.

"The pain was just so bad, and I was having such bad spasms," she said. "You sit there on the phone, so you can't stand and alleviate the pain. The headphone cord is too short to stand."

Workers’ compensation alone does not pay for all of Janice's medical needs. She must rely on past savings and her weekly workers’ compensation benefits.

"The basic expenses are so high these days," she said. "How anyone can live on less than what I am making is beyond me because I am struggling."

Janice is years away from qualifying for Medicare. She must continue to navigate in a way that does not completely deplete her of her finances.

"I am just thinking of what it's like for a normal, average person to go through this and to lose their entire savings to keep afloat," she said. "Some people lose their homes, some people lose their cars, and the state doesn't even stand by us."