These Desperate Parents Considered Divorce So Their Kid Would Get The Care She Needs

It's an all-too-common story in Texas.

A Texas couple was so desperate to help their daughter get the healthcare she needed that they considered divorcing each other to change their Medicaid status.

Jayme Magallon and her husband Brandon have a 3-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy. The little girl, Annalynne, contracted a virus when she was two weeks old that caused seizures and seriously affected her development. But because their income level was just above Texas' limit to qualify for Medicaid — $36,450 for a family of four in 2017 — the family can't afford much of the care that their daughter requires. 

"It's pretty pennies on a police officer's salary," Jayme Magallon, whose husband is a Fort Worth detective, said. "So that's why we considered divorcing, because as a single mom I could get all the benefits but as a married mom we don't get any."

Some of the costs for Annalynne's care are astronomical. Because of the cerebral palsy, Annalynne has the motor functions of a 6-month-old but the cognitive functions of a 3-year-old. Despite weighing 30 pounds, the Magallons have to carry her everywhere, hold her head up constantly, change her diapers and feed her through a tube in her belly. Communicating with her is difficult, and the Magallons tried to buy a device that would help but — without the Medicaid — it could cost as much as $17,000. Even basic things like a floating ring that goes around their daughter's neck so she can bathe can cost as much as $300 through the private insurance they use, simply because it's labeled as a "special needs device." 

The extreme option of getting a divorce was one of just a few poor choices the Magallon family, and other couples in Texas, have been left choosing between to get some financial help. They also considered moving out of Texas, but their immediate family is there and Brandon loves his job at the Fort Worth Police Department, Jayme said. Ultimately, they didn't decide to get a divorce. Jayme said she and Brandon are both Christians, so they had some religious objections to the idea. But she also couldn't go through with it because of what it'd do to her daughter and her youngest son, who Annalynne's therapists diagnosed as having autism during an in-home visit. 

"That's something that we don't want to put our children through," Jayme said. "It's hard for children to see that their parents aren't together. I've lived that before, I was a single mom for 13 years, so I've seen how my son suffered from not having both parents in the home."

Instead, Jayme plans to fight. 

"We're going to struggle and do everything we can to change the system so we can continue to be married but also get my daughter the support that she needs," she added.

So far, that fight has taken the form of speaking out and telling their story. They've been to the White House and communicated with politicians in Washington D.C., though Magallon says it seems like all dead ends so far. She believes a system with more tiers or an expansion of Medicaid would be a huge benefit to Texas. Beto O'Rourke, the Democrat running for Congress in Texas who wants to expand Medicaid, shared a post about the Magallon family, which Jayme was encouraged by.

"He's huge on expanding Medicaid," she said. "So right there, with him sharing our story, we're finding an ally to help us to get something moving, and that's a fantastic ally to have."

The clock is ticking, though. Jayme says she has been waiting for six months just to get a walker for her daughter. Right now, they can only afford about 50 physical therapy sessions for her daughter a year, which is half of what she needs. And in the meantime — instead of catching up physically — Annalynne is falling behind further from other children. There is also a list in Texas that the Magallon family can sign up for to receive certain in-home care and financial services, but the wait list to be selected takes longer than 10 years for most patients, according to The Dallas News.

For Magallon, it's frustrating to watch the system fail her and her husband despite doing everything by the book.

"He's been working since he was 16 years old, paying other peoples premiums and stuff, and that's where it gets a little frustrating, where we're needing help and it's not available," she said. "If I have to put my voice out there and stand on any platform I can, I will. Because it's ultimately for my daughter and for other people's children who are in the same situation as us. I feel like a change needs to be made."

(H/T: Dallas News)

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