We are now experiencing the longest shutdown in U.S. government history, and the toll is starting to become terrifyingly real for government workers going without paychecks. On Friday, many government employees were not paid for the first time during the shutdown. Mallory Lorge, a woman who suffers from Type I diabetes, told NBC that the financial pressure has caused her to ration her insulin and is preventing her from seeking medical care.
Lorge, who lives in River Falls, WI, has two vials of insulin left. She can’t afford more, even though she presumably has health insurance. The medication comes with a $300 copay.
Last week, Lorge says her blood sugar rose to a dangerous level, but instead of using her insulin, she just went to sleep.
“When it gets that high you can go into diabetic ketoacidosis, you can go into a coma,” she told NBC. “I can’t afford to go to the ER. I can’t afford anything. I just went to bed and hoped I’d wake up.”
Lorge works at the Department of the Interior. She recently survived another medical crisis, which put her and her husband in a difficult financial situation before the shutdown even began.
[Soon] after returning from her honeymoon, Lorge, 31, fell ill with double pneumonia and had to be hospitalized for sepsis and respiratory failure. Because her medical condition was complicated by her diabetes, she went on medical leave and put her plans on hold.
Then on Dec. 22, she and her husband, who works for a tool-making company, received two more financial punches: the government partially shut down and the first of her medical bills arrived. Lorge and her husband were forced to consolidate their debt in a $40,000 loan, and she canceled all her medical appointments.
Lorge and her husband will have to make their first loan payment soon, and her husband is working overtime to pay for it.
“It’s like being held hostage,” Lorge told NBC. “I’ve been a federal employee for six years, and I love it. I don’t get paid much, but I love working for the American people. That the government has put us in this position is like a punch in the gut.”
Lorge told NBC that she expects that her husband can take care of them with his paycheck for several more weeks, but after that, she doesn’t know what they’re going to do. They are now applying for unemployment.
Earlier this week, the Department of Labor reported that 4,760 government employees applied for unemployment benefits on the final week of 2018, a 500 percent increase from the week before.
It may seem hard to believe that the loss of one paycheck could have such a devastating impact, but it lines up with research. In 2015, one found that 58 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings.
“You got hopes and dreams and then stuff like this kind of puts it on the back burner now,” Lorge told NBC. “My husband and I were talking and saying, ‘Let’s just worry about each day. We can’t worry about our dreams now.’”