About a year ago, fellow LiveMom blogger Nicole introduced me to Alexandria Garza. A single mother to a little girl, Alexandria was uninsured when doctors diagnosed her with some serious health problems, including a heart condition that needed surgery right away. Only Alexandria had no way to pay for it.
Our governor and a lot of lawmakers like to talk about how Texas won’t do this or that, but how can we do nothing for someone like Alexandria? Health reform was supposed to be the answer, when next year almost everybody was supposed to get good health insurance at an affordable price. A lot of people still will, but the Supreme Court decision last June poked a hole in the plan for one group. It basically said states could decide whether to take federal money that’s there to cover low-income people—mostly people who work but don’t make enough money to buy health care. Covering this group would be fully paid for with federal funds for years, and even later on, when states start to pay some, the federal government would pick up nearly the whole tab (90% or more). It seemed like a no-brainer. What state wouldn’t accept funding to help so many of its own people?
Sadly, the answer may be Texas. This has been one of few real controversies this year at the Capitol. Our state leaders have rejected Obamacare’s offer to cover more people using Medicaid (which already helps kids, seniors, and people with disabilities in Texas). That would have been the simplest route, and it looks like it’s off the table.
What is still possible is an alternative plan called “the Texas Solution” from Republican John Zerwas. In the next few days, powerful leaders will decide what happens–including whether over 1 million uninsured people will have a chance to get covered using private insurance next year. There are lots of reasons all Texans would be better off with a health care solution like this than with nothing at all.
Here are stories of three fellow Texas moms I got to meet, and that I wish every lawmaker could meet. (To hear their stories in their own words, watch the videos below, and keep in mind that an alternative to Medicaid expansion like the Texas Solution could help them, too.)
Alexandria Garza – Austin, Texas
Though she worked full time, Alexandria didn’t have health benefits. After her scary diagnosis, she got turned away from heart surgery because she had no way of paying $60,000 upfront. While some states offer parents Medicaid, that’s almost never true in Texas. Unless you’re pregnant or living with a disability, earning even $3,400 per year is too much for someone like Alexandria to qualify for the state’s public health care. Fortunately, she was able to get insured through Travis County’s Medical Assistance Program. “This program not only saved my life,” she says, “but it gave my daughter her mother back.” The coverage isn’t as comprehensive as Medicaid, and there isn’t a private health plan that will take her at a price she can afford. The Texas Solution would help Alexandria and about 710,000 other uninsured parents with children at home getting good health care they need.
Bettina Cox - Houston, Texas
In November 2011, Bettina was working in child care and not making enough to pay for health insurance. She started feeling sick all the time, and pretty soon couldn’t keep up with the children. Not having insurance, she had missed a few check-ups, but she never suspected it would lead to her diagnosis of cervical cancer. She had a tumor the size of a grapefruit, and doctors talked of possibly needing to amputate her leg. “My family and I were fearful, frustrated, and worried. I may lose my leg, or worse, my life,” she said, “It seemed there was no hope of finding help.” After her diagnosis, Bettina qualified for the Medicaid Breast and Cervical Program, which saved both her leg and her life. But routine cancer screenings would have spared her and her adult children so much fear and pain. Fewer than 1 in 5 child care workers get offered health coverage through their jobs, and at least 27% are uninsured. A health care solution would help more than 800,000 working people like Bettina, and it would save as many as 9,000 Texans’ lives every year.
Patricia Gonzales - Pasadena, Texas
Patricia is a mother of three (including the teenager I wrote about last week who spoke in front of a crowd of 1,000 about health care for Texans). Patricia’s youngest, a 14-year-old son, is in the school band, gets good grades and plans to go to college, but she still worries about him and about his oldest sister. Both of them have diagnosed mental health concerns. Turning 19, which her daughter has done and which her son will do in a few years, means no longer qualifying for Children’s Medicaid. That, in turn, means losing out on prescriptions that Patricia says help her children succeed in school and in life. It’s Mental Health Month in May, so here’s hoping our lawmakers will step up for thousands of uninsured Texans who struggle with mental health challenges, many of them young adults who need better options to get and stay well.
This is a critical time, and the Texas Well and Healthy Campaign is asking every Texan who cares about the issue to make a call to their Representative in the state House right away to say, “Please support HB 3791 and health coverage for Texans.”
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.livemom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Christine_Sinatra.jpg[/author_image] [author_info] Christine Sinatra is the communications director for Texans Care for Children, a nonprofit that works to improve Texas kids’ lives through policy change. She is the mom to a kindergartener and has worked as a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman and the Oakland Tribune company and as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching high school girls in Africa.[/author_info] [/author]