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It is a tough time for families across the country, and we are no different. My husband is currently looking for work in sales, and I am a new nurse who has had a hard time finding full-time work with benefits.

In addition, we have three children who have respiratory illnesses, not uncommon here in Las Vegas, Nevada. Without Medicaid, there is no way they could see a lung specialist and there is no way I could have even received prenatal care when I was pregnant with them.

When programs like Medicaid are on the chopping block, oftentimes politicians think that families like ours can use the emergency room as needed. Let me assure you that the emergency room is no replacement for a primary care doctor that knows the medical history of a patient and can provide ongoing treatment as opposed to visiting an emergency room and getting a new doctor each and every time.

Plus, emergency room visits cost taxpayers money. An estimated 50 million, or 42 percent, of the 120 million U.S. emergency room visits made in 2006 were billed to the Medicaid and Medicare programs! Studies have shown that having a primary care doctor significantly cuts down on emergency room visits, not only for healthy patients but for those who are sick and have greater needs.

I am grateful to receive healthcare coverage through Medicaid. Without it, my kids would be sicker and their lives in jeopardy – and those around them – as they would not be able to receive vaccines on time or wellness checkups. We would be in a whirlwind of trouble without it.

Katrina Alvarez-Hyman is a member in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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