Eight days after my little sister Mica was born, she was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome, a rare heart condition that caused her to have violent seizures.
Doctors were not optimistic; one told my mother to go home and prepare for Mica to die. In addition to the heartbreak of seeing Mica fighting for her life, my family struggled financially during this time.
Thanks to Health First Colorado (Medicaid) and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), we were able to afford the surgeries and treatment necessary to save my sister’s life.
When Mica was born, we had just moved to Fort Collins and my father worked for minimum wage — we couldn’t afford private health insurance. My mother applied for Medicaid while pregnant; it covered the costs of birth and was extended to Mica when she was born. Medicaid allowed my family to stay at the McDonalds House in Denver for free and paid for a breast pump for my mother. Our doctor gifted us a stethoscope to monitor my sister’s heart at home — at the time, we couldn’t afford the simple tool.
As Mica grew, Medicaid covered hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of surgeries, medication and doctor visits, all of which were unaffordable otherwise.
The American Health Care Act (AHCA), passed on May 4 by the U.S. House of Representatives, eviscerates the Medicaid program that kept my family whole. The nonpartisan Colorado Health Institute estimates that under AHCA, Colorado would lose $14 billion in federal funding for Medicaid and 600,000 Coloradans would lose Medicaid coverage.
As the Senate takes up the bill, Coloradans hope that our senators will fight for our health. Sen. Cory Gardner has expressed concern “that any poorly implemented or poorly timed change in the current funding structure in Medicaid could result in a reduction in access to life-saving health care services.” However, he continues to support efforts to restructure Medicaid and says he has “full confidence” that states are equipped to fulfill the health care needs of their citizens.
In reality, making significant cuts in federal support for Medicaid through block grants or per capita caps would force states to narrow eligibility and ration benefits, threatening Colorado’s ability to ensure the health and financial security of our most vulnerable residents.
I want Coloradans to understand the implications of decimating Medicaid and CHP+. These programs aren’t used by “people who don’t want to work.” In my experience, they can mean life or death to people who find themselves in tough situations through no fault of their own. They are a reprieve for parents like my mother, a dedicated public-sector employee who has been recognized as a Master Teacher in Colorado, who unexpectedly took on a demanding caretaker role.
Eliminating Medicaid would force families like mine to decide between life-saving services or saying goodbye to their newborns. It would cause health insurance costs for people like my sister, born with pre-existing conditions, to skyrocket because of something that happened days into their lives.
This is the option before the Senate now: Protect families or drive them into debt as they fight to save their loved ones.
Sen. Gardner, we’re counting on you to stand up for Coloradans, protect Medicaid in our state and ensure that health care does what it’s supposed to do: help families and save lives.
Raissa Huntley lives in Fort Collins.