Texas Couple Considers Divorce To Pay Daughter's Medical Bills

A Texas couple, whose daughter has a rare chromosomal disorder, is mulling a divorce in order to be able to afford their child's medical expenses.

Maria and Jake Grey, who live in Sanger, Texas, spend over $15,000 a year out of pocket – despite having health insurance – for daughter Brighton's health care. The sum comprises some 30 percent of the annual income of the family, which also has another 2-year-old girl.

Brighton is 6 but her ailment has confined her to the helpless position of a baby, her mother said to WFAA. She has Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, which triggers hearing and vision impairments, heart and kidney problems, and seizures, among other conditions.

Maria Grey said caring for Brighton was a blessing in many ways, but in others, it amounts to a major cause of financial and psychological stress.

"You know, when you have a newborn, everything gets really stressful. You really have to adapt to someone needing you 24/7, all the time," Maria Grey said. "We've had a newborn for six-and-a-half years."

Although the Greys struggle financially, they make too much to qualify for Medicaid. Jake Grey, an Army veteran, brings home around $40,000 a year. While state assistance is available, it is slow to trickle in, as lists often include thousands of patients, waiting for years – sometimes over a decade – to receive help.

"I used to get anxiety just opening the mail because I was scared of what would come or what bill would come or what denial would come," Maria Grey said.

Because of that the Greys are considering a divorce, so that Maria Grey becomes, at least under the law, a single, unemployed mother of two little children – and, thus, eligible for Medicaid.

"We've just struggled and struggled with it, and now we've gotten to the point, where we feel it's a real possibility," Jake Grey said.

Describing the situation his family finds itself in as "morally wrong," he added, "For someone to kind of make you choose between your marriage and your child is just—it's just a really weird spot to be in."

The Greys married some nine years ago in Florida and could never imagine beating life's challenges with anyone else.

Yet, they may not be the only ones whose best bet is divorce. Dr. Thad Miller, a health care policy expert at UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, suspects that many families – especially those whittling on assistance waiting lists – face a similar grim decision.

"It's just shocking, and I really think it speaks to our need to really rethink what we do and how especially for the most vulnerable," Dr. Miller said.