When we’re fighting for ourselves or our loved ones, we often forget that Medicaid is a blessing, not necessarily a right. First of all, we’re lucky to be Americans, and if you qualify for aid, you’re even more privileged. In other countries, children and adults often die of starvation or lack of medical treatment.
Life is far from easy for my family or yours. However, many Arkansans simply don’t have a diagnosis that qualifies them for financial aid at all. Recently, in a Public Health & Welfare Joint committee meeting, Representative Sullivan said that he has constituents who are concerned that their taxes are paying for children on Medicaid to receive better care than their own children, who are covered only by private insurance. Many children who don’t receive Medicaid also have a great need for therapy and expensive medical treatments.
When we lived in a neighboring state, under Managed Care I might add, we had to live solely on what private insurance covered. Our deductible was very high, and some therapies like Speech were not even covered. Treating my daughter’s heart condition alone, we had usually met the threshold by April. But we had no choice because without the treatment, she would die. With both of us working, we still couldn’t cover the costs. The lack of some treatments, the ones we just could not afford, has left her profoundly delayed. After that experience, I realize what other Arkansans are suffering through.
Of course, many feel at least a slight entitlement to this aid. My first response was to feel defensive at Rep. Sullivan’s statement. In my case, I have paid taxes for years. For 8 years, I paid taxes to improve schools, even though I was not a student or parent. I have probably paid for countless parks or road repair that I have yet to see. For 17 years, before it ever benefited anyone I knew, I paid taxes that funded Medicaid. Why should I feel guilty about receiving it now? In fact, even as a Medicaid recipient, I pay a lot for the care my daughter gets – first for a private insurance premium and second a TEFRA premium. Why shouldn’t I fight for my child’s needs?
Those thoughts are the trap of a selfish heart. The beauty of taxes in our country is that they are a way that we can take care of each other’s needs. As American citizens, we do get to express our opinions about how best to apply those funds. Our country is full of worthy causes, and there’s only so much money to go around. Yes, my job is to speak up for my loved one, but I need to do so with a thankful and empathetic heart.
At the Legislative Joint Budget hearing yesterday, it was reported that the DHS Medical Services budget is growing. Cuts to therapy will be implemented, and yet the number is rising year after year. From our side, we know it’s worth allocating money to Medicaid. But think about how other taxpayers feel about the rising costs. People need their money to cover their own costs, and many other needs in the country beg for tax funds to cover them. That’s why we can expect more cuts. We have to think about it from their side because they’re speaking to their representatives too. Many of them don’t have a good view of Medicaid recipients. If we want to protect the funds we receive, we need to come together to THANK our lawmakers and fellow tax-paying Arkansans. We should tell them what great things that Medicaid does for Arkansas, but if we demand it, they may be more apt to cut the budget. Taxpayers are literally saving lives by going to work every day and by paying taxes that fund Medicaid. How will they know that if we don’t tell them?
Many of us still hold some fear about the therapy cap issue and the possibility of managed care. Today, I spoke to Representative Sullivan by phone about how best to improve this situation for everyone. I was encouraged to know that he is a former teacher and principal, and currently he’s the CEO of Ascent Child Health Services. That means he has daily experience with what great things Medicaid can do, and he understands the intricacies of the system. He is a person who seems to “see the real people behind the billing codes.” Rep. Sullivan said he is working with a group of legislators on ideas of where best to save money with a strategy that would be aimed at improving the quality of care and the cost of care – for those on Medicaid and for all taxpayers. He offered to meet with me, and possibly our whole group if we can work that out, to provide answers to our questions.
If you’re in need of Medicaid, that probably means that life is no picnic for you. But before you storm to the capitol to fight, take a minute to think about those who don’t get the help that you get. Stop to take a step outside yourself. What do non-recipients see when they look at us? I want them to see us as thankful. I want them to see us as people who put those dollars to good use. Take a minute to think about what Medicaid has done for you or a loved one. Be thankful, and fight hard to inspire those around you toward unity.
If you want to take action, call your Senators and Representatives, and thank them for the funding that we receive. Tell them the wonderful ways in which Medicaid affects your life. If you’re on social media, take a second to thank those around you. Tell them what lifesavers they are! #thankfulformedicaid