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Ashley Eades

When Ashley Eades contacted Tennessee Justice Center on August 3, 2023, she was in a situation she never could have imagined. Up until that point, Ashley and her son, Lucas Chambers, were making ends meet, despite the many hardships they faced including his recent diagnosis of epilepsy. However, the delicate peace that Ashley fostered began to unravel when she received notice that Lucas needed to renew his TennCare coverage in April of 2023. 

Like many other parents in her position, Ashley was unaccustomed to the TennCare redetermination process. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, TennCare didn’t require enrollees to renew their coverage for more than three years leading up to April 1, 2023. Nevertheless, Ashley attempted to renew her son’s coverage over the phone with a TennCare representative who erroneously told her that she didn't need to respond to a request for additional information regarding her income. “It was really stressful, I just had to figure out how I had to appeal and pay for everything. I talked with a bunch of people but [Lucas] lost coverage three times last year. It was stressful.” 

On May 18, Ashley received notice that, through no fault of her own, the failure to provide said income information would result in the June 7th termination of Lucas’ coverage. Ashley immediately stepped up and called TennCare and convinced the agency to reinstate his coverage, but this relief was short lived.  On June 18th, TennCare sent out another notice once again terminating Lucas’ coverage. Confusingly, TennCare said his household's income exceeded the income limit set for its Medically Needy Spenddown category, even though he should've been counted according to MAGI methodology. “Every time we talked to someone, they made us feel like we were wrong and the ones who were making mistakes. It felt like we weren’t being listened to or heard.” 

While Ashley struggled with TennCare, Lucas was struggling with epileptic seizures and other health issues that made everyday life a constant struggle. The medication he needed to avoid further calamity was no longer affordable if he could not get his coverage back. Such a calamity struck one night in July, when Lucas suffered a seizure so severe that he had to be hospitalized. Although the doctors implored Lucas to stay overnight, Ashley made the gut-wrenching decision to leave because she knew she couldn't afford it. Whether it be financially or in Lucas’ health, the cost of being uninsured was hauntingly clear for his family. 

Once again Ashley took matters into her own hands by filing an appeal on August 1st to try to get his TennCare coverage. However, this time around, she sought the assistance of TJC to make sure that Lucas could be insured as soon as possible. Following Ashley’s initiative, TJC submitted additional documentation stemming from that appeal and talked to agency caseworkers to resolve Lucas’ gap in coverage. With TJC’s help, “I had someone in the corner who knew that something was not right. You took all the worry off my shoulders. I felt stuck and didn’t know what to do; handling that situation without help felt impossible.” 

While TennCare initially said they would hold a hearing over the appeal, the agency eventually sent out a Notice of Decision on September 22nd stating that Lucas was approved for TennCare Medicaid with a start date of August 1st.  Today, Lucas remains insured with access to the medication and medical care that he needs to live his best, healthiest life. “We had been trying to get Lucas a new doctor, but since he was approved, we’ve been able to make all our appointments and haven’t had to worry about how to pay for it. We finally feel like we’re on a better road towards recovery. It’s still hard, but not having to worry about having to get insurance has been a huge relief… I’m a full-time student now and trying to create a better life for myself and Lucas. Now, we’re not as worry or stressed out.” 

Ashley could catch her breath now that Lucas’ care was reinstated, but her fierce advocacy didn’t stop there. Because of the anxiety she felt while her son went uninsured, Ashley shared her story with News Channel 5, raising her voice to the issue and letting her fellow Tennesseans know that TJC stands ready to help them navigate renewals when they need it. Tennessee Justice Center is privileged to honor Ms. Ashley Eades as a 2024 Mother of the Year for her perseverance in ensuring her son’s care and her courageous advocacy on behalf of all Tennesseans. 

Photo credit: Darien Photography 

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