What Happens When You Can’t Afford Life-Saving Health Care?
This post comes courtesy Brian Henriquez and our friends at Virginia New Majority. You can join them calling for expanded medicaid access for all Virginians by signing the petition today.
I was just 7 years old when I was rushed to the emergency room in the wee hours of the morning. I couldnít breathe, inhaling hurt and I felt like I was drowning in water.
The doctors told me I had asthma. I was too young to understand what hospital bills were, but my mom understood. She was relieved that I had Medicaid. Medicaid helped pay for my inhalers, nebulizers and all sorts of medicines I needed to stay healthy.
Asthma will always be with me. Medicaid wonít.
Now that Iím 19 years old, I am no longer eligible for Medicaid. Iím taking pre-med classes so that I can become a pediatrician one day. I also work part-time. There’s no way I can afford private health insurance right now.
Iím afraid of getting sick because if I go to the doctor, Iíll have to pay out-of-pocket. My momís been skipping doctorís visits for years. Itís a sacrifice she makes to provide for her family.
I never realized how important healthcare was until I got sick a few weeks ago. I didnít tell my mom because she would have insisted on taking me to the doctor. We canít afford the care so I sucked it up.
Iím just one of 400,000 Virginians who would qualify for Medicaid under a proposed expansion. To think there are hundreds of thousands of other Virginians in this situation makes me sad.
No one should have to live like this.
ĖBrian Henriquez, Virginia New Majority Member
Brian’s story of struggling to afford the basic care he needs to survive and thrive is tragic, but it is, alarmingly, not uncommon. Around Virginia and the rest of the United States far too many people are forced to balance a limited budget with the health care they need to survive.
Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that insures pregnant women, children, low-income families, people with disabilities and the elderly who need nursing home care.
Each state sets their own eligibility rules and pays for half the cost of the program.
Programs like Medicaid are meant to be there to bridge the gap, but right now too many people are shut out of the program who also cannot afford private insurance.
Virginia has one of the most restrictive eligibility requirements in the country; potential recipients can only earn up to 30% of the federal poverty line. That means a family of four with a yearly income of $7,200 doesn’t qualify for Medicaid in Virginia.
The Affordable Care Act, however, changes that. States can accept federal funding that will allow them to cover people earning up to 133% of the poverty line, including adults without dependent children.
Expanding Medicaid won’t cost Virginia anything for the first three years. After that Virginia will pay just a fraction of the cost to provide critical healthcare to seniors, kids and families across the state.
An independent study also shows that by expanding Medicaid would grow Virginia’s economy by $4 billion over the next six years and create 31,000 new jobs, while cutting state spending on healthcare by 7%.
Gov. McDonnell opposes the Medicaid expansion but he agreed in February to create a commission of 10 legislators to review whether or not sufficient reforms have been made to Medicaid before Virginia proceeds with an expansion.
Both the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate will name five lawmakers to the commission. The Senate hasn’t named its members, which only delays a possible expansion.
The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis estimates that Virginia taxpayers are set to lose $5 million a day in life-saving health coverage for our friends, families and neighbors if our lawmakers can’t come to an agreement and implement a Medicaid expansion by January 1, 2014.
It’s a price that Virginia shouldn’t have to pay.