At a time when it is popular to lash out at government programs, I want to stand up for the public service that is Medicaid. It not only offers outstanding healthcare coverage to people who need it most, but it saves families money and lives.
My 30-year-old daughter receives healthcare coverage through Medicaid because she has fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, both of which cause severe pain in the joints and surrounding tissues, and are disabling. Because my daughter can’t work, my granddaughter also receives health coverage through Medicaid.
Medicaid was available to me when I battled breast cancer.
I have spent most of my adult life uninsured because my husband was self-employed and did not make enough money to pay for private insurance for our family and his workers. Unfortunately, the worst case scenario happened to us.
I knew something felt “wrong” in my breast, but I had no insurance. I knew that even if we could scrape together enough money for a mammogram, we couldn't afford any treatments. Also, I worried that a cancer diagnosis would be considered a “pre-existing condition” keeping us from gaining healthcare coverage in the future. So I ignored my symptoms for two years.
Finally, my husband heard something on TV about free mammograms offered by the Department of Health, and I went for it. Yes, it was breast cancer. Yes, it was invasive. And yes, treatment was paid for by Medicaid.
Medicaid, literally, saved my life. My cancer was stage 1, treated by surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormones. It's now been 9 years since my diagnosis. I'm grateful to be alive. I would never have chosen my own treatment over making house payments. My family is more important than my life. Today I'm grateful to have both.
My coverage under Medicaid ended after I was successfully treated for breast cancer. I continue to receive follow-up mammograms through my county’s health department. But I will never forget the care I received through Medicaid and its compassionate doctors, who were all truly outstanding.
Gail Schimmelpfennig is a MomsRising.org member in Sandy, Utah.