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Loving couple separates after 33 years of marriage because of state’s health care policy

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MARYVILLE, Tenn. – A Tennessee couple says governmental policies have forced them to separate after 33 years of marriage.

They are among 162,000 Tennessee residents who got caught in an insurance coverage gap after the Affordable Care Act went into effect and the Tennessee governor decided not to expand Medicaid.

Linda Drain has dealt with her fair share of health problems.

She has battled epilepsy all of her life and quality health insurance is considered a necessity.

Larry Drain decided to take early retirement last September to make that possible but it ended up being one of the worst decisions of his life.

Linda says the day she said ‘I do’ was the best day of her life.

“I believe that my marriage is about commitment and love and support. It’s been a very important thing to me,” said Linda.

Larry says he planned on being with Linda forever.

He promised to be by her side through sickness, health and her constant battle with epilepsy.

“We have been at points and times where a good day was 10 to 15 grand mal seizures. I’ve seen her go through brain surgery. We’ve been through a lot,” said Larry.

The Social Security Administration doesn’t allow a couple to make more than $1,100 when the income is not from wages.

When Larry Drain decided to enter retirement, his check was less than his old paycheck but it was still too much.

“Shortly after I took the retirement, Social Security called and told us we made too much money and they had a limit on unearned income. I said, ‘How can my retirement be unearned income?’ And they said, ‘Legally it is,” he said.

Larry says his wife would have lost her SSI and her TennCare coverage if she continued to live with him.

So, Larry says they did what they needed to for her health.

“On December the 26, after 33 years of marriage, we separated and Linda went to live with her mom,” said Larry Drain.

The Drains say they make too little to qualify for the Affordable Care Act.

Both would have qualified for TennCare while still living together if Tennessee had expanded its Medicaid program.

“In order to keep my wife alive, I can’t live with her. Unless Gov. Haslam chooses to expand Medicaid, I’ll never be able to live with her,” said Larry.

Governor Haslam’s office released the following statement:

“Governor Haslam believes that more people having access to healthcare is a good thing, but you have to do it in a way that controls costs and provides for better outcomes. The governor and administration continue to have discussions with HHS and CMS about the Tennessee Plan, the governor’s approach for a third path to real healthcare reform for Tennessee.”

There was no response from TennCare.