If you live in Georgia and you have a mysterious, disabling medical condition, you are at a staggering disadvantage in every way possible.
For starters, you can't work because you're sick. So you need disability. But getting disability requires a diagnosis. But you can't get a diagnosis because you can't get health insurance and go to a good doctor. And you can't get health insurance because you can't work . . . because you're sick. So you're just hopelessly stuck.
Even if you had a diagnosis, the disability process in Georgia is one of the slowest in the US. As the years drag on, your life savings - if you have any - dry up. You have to figure out where you're going to live and how you're going to get by with no income. In the mean time, you have to deal with paperwork, lawyers, and court dates.
Then, the Affordable Care Act, or "ObamaCare," came along. Unfortunately, Georgia's Governor, Nathan Deal, chose not participate in the Medicaid expansion. Despite a complete overhaul of the American health care system, the Affordable Care Act failed to help those who needed it most. So here you sit, having reached yet another dead end. Unless you're pregnant, you're out of luck.
On top of all that, because your condition is complex and mysterious, The Mayo Clinic is really the only place that can help. But you can't just buy a month of health insurance on your own and then visit a Mayo Clinic doctor. If you don't live in the same state as one of the Mayo Clinic locations, you're out of luck yet again. No health insurance will cover out-of-state doctors.
Just one visit with a single Mayo Clinic doctor costs $5,000. Then you have specialists, testing, travel expenses, and other fees. Out of desperation, many patients spend thousands of dollars just to get elusive answers from the renowned hospital. But what if you don't have any money? What if family and friends can't help you, either? Many patients can't even get bank loans because they have no income. Again, this leaves people with no options at all.
Having a mysterious, disabling condition puts your entire life on hold. But when you live in Georgia and you have a disabling mystery illness, you have an even greater burden to bear.
Enter the Mayo Clinic Care Network. It is an electronic means of collaboration that allows local doctors to consult with actual Mayo Clinic physicians. This unique system gives Georgia doctors unprecedented access to the best diagnostic care in the nation. While the network doesn't mean you'll speak directly to a Mayo Clinic physician, your doctor will use innovative solutions, such as AskMayoExpert and eConsults, to increase the chances of diagnosing your illness. To date, only two hospitals in Georgia have become members of the Mayo Clinic Care Network. They are WellStar Health Systems and St. Francis Hospital.
WellStar Health Systems
805 Sandy Plains Road
Marietta, GA 30066
(770) 956 - 7827
St. Francis Hospital
2122 Manchester Expressway
Columbus, Georgia 31904
(706) 596 - 4000
If you have no income, however, even visiting a local hospital can be a stretch. Another nearby facility that may help is the Mayo Clinic Health Center in Waycross, Georgia. You can apply for their Indigent Care program and potentially gain access to physicians there.
Mayo Clinic Health Center
1900 Tebeau Street
Waycross, GA 31501
Main line: (912) 283 - 3030
Indigent Care department: (912) 287 - 2740
When you call the Indigent Care department, a representative can mail an application to you. When you submit a completed application, you must also submit a number of documents as proof of your indigence:
1. A wage inquiry (or a "WG15 form") from the Department of Labor
2. A letter from the Social Security Administration stating that you are not receiving any benefits
3. A food stamp letter
4. 3 months of pay stubs or the tax information of the person with whom you are living
No matter what happens, you cannot give up on your quest to find help. It's emotionally exhausting, and there may be times when you need to shut down just for a little while. But you owe it to yourself to keep trying. If one place can't help you, the same facility may know of another place that might have what you need. Be proactive in your search each and every day, and you'll go from dead-end to diagnosis. You deserve to get the help you need, and one day, you'll find it. It's time to go beyond existing. It's time to start living.