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Originally published September 21, 2013 at 8:04 PM | Page modified September 23, 2013 at 4:08 AM

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Chronic illness puts Ballard couple near financial edge

Barbara Strindberg left her job two years ago to become the full-time caregiver for her partner, Linnea Skoglund, who had become increasingly disabled from multiple sclerosis.

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Who: Barbara Strindberg and Linnea Skoglund, both 61.

Circumstance: Since 2011, Barbara has been a full-time caregiver at their home in Ballard for her partner, Linnea, who has multiple sclerosis.

Challenge: Both had good jobs and were able to save some, anticipating the effects of Linnea’s illness. Several years ago, Linnea became unable to work as a drawbridge operator because she could no longer climb stairs.

After Linnea became even more seriously ill two years ago, Barbara left her job as head of a sign-company graphics department to take care of her.

These days, they live primarily on Linnea’s pension and Social Security disability payment for about $3,100 a month, and their savings are dwindling. They’re close to paying off the house they’ve lived in for 29 years, and next year, Barbara will be able to get Social Security payments, too.

“It will be a godsend,” she says.

In the meantime, money is very tight.

Current coverage: Linnea has health coverage, including a supplemental policy from her workplace — good, because one medication she takes costs about $4,000 per month. But her insurance doesn’t pay for all the equipment she needs.

Barbara pays $312 a month for an individual policy through Community Health Plan of Washington — her largest expense after the mortgage.

She was grateful for coverage, and the care she received at Neighborcare Health’s Greenwood Medical Clinic, when she contracted E. coli recently and was sick for a month.

Options: Barbara hopes she’ll qualify for a subsidy under the Affordable Care Act that will help reduce her insurance premium costs.

“We’re not starving, but by the time we pay for everything, there’s nothing left over,” she says.

— Carol M. Ostrom

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