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AnnMarie Duchon's picture

With the holiday season underway, parents are starting to add "prevent any cuts to Medicaid" to their holiday wish-list.   The looming fiscal cliff and related decisions about the budget and deficit are creating an opportunity for some in Congress to propose long-term changes to Medicaid that would lead to drastic cuts.  Moms-to-be and moms with children who were born premature need to take special note as these decisions could profoundly and negatively affect our families' health and economic security.

My daughter Gracie was born at 26 weeks for reasons that are unknown. She was just 2 lbs and 6 oz and 13.5 inches long. Fortunately, we received great care at a Children’s Miracle Network affiliated hospital with an outstanding NICU. The NICU was my daughter’s home for the 68 days of her life while she fought through brain bleeds, two heart conditions, a massive infection and where she also learned to grow and eat and strive.

Thanks to Medicaid, this unexpected medical crisis did not cripple us financially or require us to spend long periods of time away from Gracie when she needed us most. When she was born, my husband and I both worked and we had excellent health coverage. But even with this coverage, there is no way that my husband and I could ever have paid for the extensive hospital and follow-up care she received.

Medicaid was a lifesaver for us during Grace’s first year of life. Without it, the debt from her hospitalization and follow-up medical care would have crippled us financially for the rest of our lives (and would likely have continued to serve as a burden to her). Because this coverage was available, we were able to do the best thing possible. We got to be present parents. We did not have to obtain additional work (beyond our 2 full time careers) to try to pay down this exorbitant debt. We could do what was best for her medically, we could learn how best to care from her and we did not shackle her to a life of debt from the start.

Premature birth is on the rise and each year, more than half a million babies are born prematurely in the U.S. Babies born just a few weeks early can face serious health challenges and can be at risk for lifelong disabilities. (See this March of Dimes article on prematurity.) These families – even those who have excellent health insurance like we have – face an unthinkable financial burden without assistance from Medicaid.

Medicaid provides health coverage for nearly 30 million children nationwide. (See this article from FamiliesUSA, April 2011) Thanks to the excellent care and support we received, Gracie is doing well and is a happy and healthy three-year old. She no longer needs help from Medicaid but we know first-hand how crucial this coverage is for those who need it. Making cuts to this program will only result in loss of life, more permanent disabilities and more families broken down by the stress of this crisis and debt.

Join me other moms and families by sharing how Medicaid has helped your family.

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