My Family's Medicaid Story: This Is Why We Need To Oppose The Senate Health Care Bill

by Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner

Below is a photo of my family back in 2012, just an hour after our second son was born. It was one of the sweetest, happiest moments of my life — and for me, one that was filled with relief as much as joy.

Wendy Wisner

You see, what you might not know when you look at this photo is that I’d spent much of my pregnancy in a state of worry about adding a new child to our family. My husband had lost his job a few months earlier and was still looking for work. We were living on a very tight income, and with the help of unemployment, SNAP (food stamps), gifts from family, and reliance on savings (that were rapidly depleting), we were just squeaking by financially.

When my husband lost his job of 10 years, we also lost our health insurance. Thankfully — mercifully — we were able to receive Medicaid. Medicaid covered my prenatal visits (including all labs and other tests), my birth, and pediatric visits for my 5-year-old son. When my baby was born, his baby well visits and vaccinations were covered. He ended up needing an ultrasound of his kidneys, which was covered as well.

Wendy Wisner

In fact, through Medicaid, we didn’t even owe any copayments — payments that we could not have afforded at that time.

To say that Medicaid saved us would be an understatement. My husband’s job loss couldn’t have come at a worse time for our family, and there would have been no options for us whatsoever had it not been for Medicaid.

That is why it hurts me personally — destroys my heart — when I hear about the Medicaid cuts that are being proposed in the new Trumpcare bill that is soon to be voted on in the Senate. As the New York Times reports, more than anything, the health care bill is a giant rollback of Medicaid benefits, probably the largest of its kind, ever.

“This is the most consequential change in 50 years for low-income people’s health care,” Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University, tells the New York Times. “This is a massive change that has hardly been discussed.”

Medicaid works as a partnership between the federal government and the states. The repeal of the ACA would dramatically cut the federal government’s contribution to Medicaid. As the New York Times explains it, the cuts would leave states to raise money to make up for the difference or would force them to cut back on Medicaid coverage for low-income people (babies and children and the elderly, too, of course — our most vulnerable populations.)

“The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the changes would lead to a reduction in spending on Medicaid of more than $800 billion over a decade,” according to the New York Times.

Basically, these cuts are a giant, unambiguous F-you to poor and low-income families in America, and there is nothing remotely justifiable or acceptable about that.

(And no, Kellyanne Conway, people in need of Medicaid can’t just “get a job.” Actually, the majority of people who are on Medicaid are working; they just typically work at low-paying jobs that don’t offer health insurance. So per usual, you are wrong and perpetuating harmful stereotypes.)

But it’s not just low-income families like mine who would feel the effects of this. You’d be surprised by how many varied medical services are covered by Medicaid.

As the New York Times points out, Medicaid not only covers about 50% of all births in America and the prenatal care for millions of mothers, but 40% of American children rely on it for health insurance. How can we possibly accept cuts that would impact almost half of the mothers and children in this country? Seriously, how?

And if you think Medicaid is only for poor women and children, think again: It covers the cost of long-term nursing care for about 2/3 of Americans, many of whom are middle-class Americans. Additionally, Medicaid covers people with disabilities who need services that their health insurance companies may not provide.

It’s no wonder that the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) have released scathing statements against this bill. Anyone with a medical degree — who deals with individuals and families on a daily basis — understands how deeply these cuts would hurt the most vulnerable citizens out there.

Really, anyone with half a heart should be able to see this. It shouldn’t take convincing.

I know for certain that my family’s story is not the only one. I know that cuts to Medicaid are terrifying for people who rely on it on a daily basis — and for the people who will inevitably need it in the future.

But I also know that we have the power to stand up and make a difference. And one of the most powerful things we can do is to tell our stories. Our real experiences about how life-saving health insurance has been for us — and what a huge threat Trumpcare would be to our lives — need to be heard, need to be shouted from the rooftops.

Politicians, especially the ones who are on the fence about which side to vote for on this bill, need to know the very real ways that this bill could impact millions of Americans and their families.

So, if you have a story to tell, please do so. Post your story on Facebook. Tag your representatives. Call your reps and tell them your story (it’s okay to cry in your message — I’ve been there). Use Resistbot and send out your letters and faxes.

Urge your friends to share their stories too. And if you don’t have a specific story about how the proposed health care bill will affect you, you can still make those calls, share your friends’ stories, show up in front of your representatives’ offices, pump your fists, and shout your outrage. It might not impact you right now, but it could down the road, and it is certainly impacting people close to you.

Whatever your situation, something this big and destructive to the well-being of millions of Americans will ultimately affect us all. At its core, this isn’t even a political issue. It’s a human rights issue, and it’s about time we all set aside our differences, and stand up for what is right, fair and decent for our fellow citizens.