My Own Medicaid Story

Much has been happening in health care across our country. The fourth year of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act just ended. It’s exciting to realize that the number of uninsured people in our country is at its lowest number ever, largely because of the Affordable Care Act.  Dedicated health care navigators have helped over 30 million people to gain health care coverage. Imagine the collective sigh of relief amongst this population as health coverage worries are lifted from the shoulders of women and men, parents and single people, some for the first time ever.

My Personal Experience with Medicaid

This reminds me of my first encounter with the detrimental effects of being uninsured.  I was just 19 years old. I began to run a temperature. My parents thought I might have the flu, but overnight I developed into agonizing pain and near-constant vomiting. Now, mind you, I didn’t have health insurance (having aged out of my parents insurant at age 18). I was a full-time college student. My father pastored a missional church for Native Americans and Mom working in a retail jewelry store; money was tight at home with five growing children. My parents rushed me to the American Indian Free Clinic where they quickly told my parents to take me to the emergency room. I entered the large public hospital nearby only to be told to wait. There were many people in the waiting room: a constant barrage of EMT’s with gunshot victims, others far sicker than me.

Finally 8 hours later, I was seen and rushed to surgery with an appendix about to burst. The next day, someone came to my hospital room to talk about paying for the medical expenses. That scared me. I didn’t have money to pay the hospital bill; my parents couldn’t pay it. What was I going to do? It turned out that I was eligible for Medicaid in my state, and due to my condition they were able to expedite my enrollment. I thank God for this program that helped me long ago. Today the Affordable Care Act covers young people up to the age of 26 on their parent’s health insurance or they can gain coverage in the health insurance exchanges or marketplaces.

Forgetting to Care for the Least of These

But what is frightening now is that Congress seems willing to undo the important promise we made to take care of the ‘least of these.’  They have their sights set on the health care coverage known as Medicaid. This important safety net program helps people who most need our help as a nation.  Mothers, fathers, children, disabled people and elderly in nursing homes. 

But now, Congress is discussing ways to make deep cuts and changes to Medicaid that will hurt poor people, elderly people in nursing homes who have exhausted their personal finances, children, pregnant women, and disabled people. All of these populations will be left out under the changes being proposed to cap or block grant Medicaid. Caps and block grants are no less than drastic cuts to a much-needed historic safety net program. We are better than this.

My experience as a young person profoundly affected how I thought of our country and what it is capable of doing. I like to think of Medicaid as the program that lets us know that our great and wealthy nation can take care of our own no matter what the circumstance. Sounds familiar, don’t you think?  Jesus demonstrated this to us in his ministry with the poor, the widow, the tax collector in his society. 

Concerns Turn to Action

What can you do?

It’s your time to take action!  Contact your Senators and Representatives.  Tell them your health care story. Let them know that Medicaid must remain the promise of a great nation. The promise of health care coverage for everyone. Town Halls and meetings are being held with Members of Congress this week. Join in and do even more than writing a letter. Show your presence. If you want to know how to set up a meeting or to engage in a Town Hall, contact us and we will connect you with one in your area.

Letter to the Editor