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Deborah Balthrop

Deborah Balthrop lives in La Vergne with her son Brace and her daughter Cheyanne. Cheyanne is outgoing, happy, and helpful.

Early last year, Cheyanne became pregnant. Recognizing the importance of prenatal care to ensure Cheyanne and her baby remained healthy, Deborah took Cheyanne to the health department to apply for TennCare. The health department approved her for TennCare through presumptive eligibility, a way for uninsured pregnant women to get TennCare right away so that they can access prenatal care. To get full benefits, Cheyanne had to fill out an application for TennCare with the Department of Human Services (DHS). Deborah and Cheyanne quickly submitted her application to DHS.

Cheyanne should have been able to access prenatal care right away, but instead Cheyanne and Deborah were put through a gamut of frustrating obstacles, conflicting messages, delays, employee errors and bureaucratic indifference. Deborah spent countless hours and made dozens of phone calls trying to get Cheyanne a TennCare card, find a physician who would see Cheyanne, and find out whether Cheyanne was approved for long-term TennCare coverage.

Deborah made four separate requests to Cheyanne’s HMO for her TennCare card, waiting up to 14 days for the card to arrive between each request. The first three times, the order for the TennCare card was not made, not processed correctly due to employee error, or not processed at all. Numerous doctors told her they would not accept presumptive eligibility without the TennCare card- even doctors that Cheyanne’s HMO suggested would see her right away. Cheyanne got very sick and still couldn’t access a doctor. She had to go to the emergency room to get care. Ultimately, Cheyanne was denied service over 20 times because she was not given her TennCare card in a timely manner.

Deborah contacted TJC to help with the process. Deborah, having worked for an advocacy organization before, had some knowledge and familiarity of the process. However, even for her, the process was overwhelming. TJC helped Deborah file an appeal regarding the delays in getting a doctor’s appointment and getting approved for TennCare. TJC also contacted the state on Cheyanne’s behalf.

Through TJC’s advocacy and Deborah’s persistent efforts, Cheyanne’s application for TennCare was finally approved, and she was able to go to a doctor. However, it had taken so long for Cheyanne to receive her TennCare card that she was sixteen weeks pregnant when she was finally able to see an obstetrician and get the prenatal care that she and her child so desperately needed. Thankfully, Cheyanne’s baby, Kayleigh-Anne, was born in October 2011, healthy and beautiful.

Throughout the entire process, Deborah never gave up. She made phone calls every day, kept records of these phone conversations, submitted and resubmitted forms and documents, and kept applying pressure where it was needed. She recognized the importance of early prenatal care and she was not going to let her daughter and grandchild fall through the cracks. Deborah is not only a tireless advocate for her own children, but has also spoken out to ensure that other children around the state are given the care they need. She told her story in federal court to ensure that all pregnant women get the timely adequate prenatal care their health and their babies health depends upon. For Tennessee’s children, Deborah says she is “not asking for more than they deserve.” For her tenacity and persistence in the face of obstacles that would have discouraged many others, Deborah is recognized as a Mother of the Year.

Photo Credit: Sally Beba

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