AUSTIN, Texas – A 2017 report from the Federal Reserve concluded that millions of Americans are one medical emergency away from financial ruin.
That’s the case for one young woman in Austin whose health complications have forced her to make a tough choice: pay rent or pay her medical bills.
“I’m not typically a homebody,” said Marissa Jones.
Jones spends most of her days now working from home, listening to records, and walking her dog. The only time she leaves her apartment these days is for hospital trips.
“Last year I had a benign brain tumor," she said.
Over the last year, Jones has been dealing with major neurological complications related to that tumor. Among those complications: leaking brain fluid.
Her recovery is ongoing and its had major side effects on her ability to move and speak. It’s the reason why even a short walk to the fridge takes effort. She’s also at high risk for having seizures.
All of these complications mean that over the last year she’s racked up thousands of dollars in medical bills even with insurance – roughly $6,000 in the last two months alone.
“As soon as you get discharged you get that notification in the mail. I kinda have, like, a phobia of checking the mail because it’s just a daily reminder of failure. That I’m just not succeeding,” she said.
Since choosing to funnel her income almost exclusively on her medical treatments, it's meant she's gotten behind on roughly $18,000 worth of rent.
“I've been having that fear of having the sheriff coming and knocking on your door to give you a new eviction notice,” said Jones.
She’s been served one eviction notice, but a local moratorium on evictions which ended at the beginning of this month, meant it hasn’t been enforced yet.
“I’m not even sure what my plan is or whether I’ll be, or if I’ll have a place to lay my head today or tomorrow,” she said.
While she’s still able to work from home, Jones says there is real concern her health might stop her from working altogether further down the line.
“It’s just almost like—I have no idea how I’m gonna get there,” she said.
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