Ever since I can remember (and long before then), I have relied on access to quality healthcare in order to not only have a good quality of life—but simply in order to keep living. My parents and I moved from Puerto Rico to Orlando Florida in 1990, when I was only three years old, so that I could have better health-related opportunities. They had just opened a clinic for children with Spina Bifida—the condition I live with and the No. 1 cause of paralysis in children—in the downtown Orlando area. I can’t recall a time during my life when my parents were unable to provide me with access to good health care but, thanks to a new budget plan passed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, I could soon find myself experiencing just that.
For over the past 30 years, my dad has worked as an employee of the federal government. If his wish comes true and he gets to retire this year, my parents and I will be losing our main source of health coverage. That would mean that I would be forced to rely solely on Medicaid for health coverage, which I receive because I have a documented disability, Spina Bifida. Ryan’s slashing of funding that would normally go to the Medicaid program would affect my outlook for my health very drastically.
While I have not had any major surgeries or medical procedures in several years (I’ve had 19 surgeries total so far), I still need to follow up at least once a year with all my specialists, which include a neurosurgeon (for my shunted hydrocephalus and my spine), an orthopedic surgeon (for my legs and feet), and a urologist (for my neurogenic bladder).
As if that weren't enough, I’m currently seeing an allergist for shots, and a psychiatrist for clinical depression—which I have been struggling with for many years now. Oh, and don’t forget the dermatologist for that sebhorrheic dermatitis I can’t seem to shake off. Knowing my medical history, would you care to foot the bill when Ryan’s plan comes to fruition and I’m left on the street, healthcare-wise? Didn’t think so.
Make no mistake– Ryan’s senseless slashes will undoubtedly affect the neediest in our population—seniors, people with disabilities—and children. I certainly don’t want to be that mom that has to say to her child, “I’m sorry, sweetheart, but we can’t afford to fix your broken arm.” Harsh.
Cutting our federal budget by starting with critical social programs is not a matter of so-called "fiscal responsibility" - it's a moral crime against those of us who have no other options left. Try telling the quadriplegic who lives in a group home that his medical expenses will no longer be covered. Try telling the single mom who’s caring for a child with cancer. Or, try telling me.
My days of healthcare coverage are numbered—but I still have a voice, and I’m going to use it. I’ll use it fight for myself. I’ll use to fight for those who don’t have a voice.
Laura Tellado is an advocate and writer who founded and publishes the Holdin’ Out For a Hero blog.