Guest Post: Medicaid saved my son’s life, it saves lives in a pandemic too

For so many vulnerable Americans, Medicaid is the only way to get health care.
For so many vulnerable Americans, Medicaid is the only way to get health care. (Photo Credit: zimmytws from Getty Images via Canva)

As the U.S. grapples with the spread of COVID-19, it is more important than ever before that every American has access to quality, affordable health care, regardless of income. In Colorado and across the country, Medicaid is a lifeline for people with limited resources, providing more than 70 million Americans, including 7.2 million seniors and more than 35 million children, with access to life-saving health care.

My son was one of those children. Born nearly four years ago, Talon was diagnosed with a severe defect called Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia, a condition in which his abdominal organs migrated into his chest cavity through a defect in his diaphragm. This impeded the normal development of his heart and especially his lungs.

Thankfully, Talon was part of the 50% born with this condition who survive. We thought the worst was behind us when the 7 major surgeries in his first 12 months of life were successful. Yet, here we are, still constantly worried about his health care.

Even in the face of a global health crisis, the Trump administration and our own Senator Cory Gardner continue to sabotage and attack Medicaid, leaving Coloradans’ health care hanging in the balance.

Republicans have spent years undermining Medicaid and Trump’s war on Medicaid has been cruel and unending. They’ve proposed massive cuts to the program and are backing a lawsuit that would overturn the entire Affordable Care Act and reverse the Medicaid expansion. For families like mine, these attacks have real and dangerous consequences.

Alice Kresh and son, Talon
Alice Kresh and son, Talon (Photo courtesy of author)

My son’s total medical bills were over $2.8 million and Medicaid paid for the treatments, copays, specialist appointments, and medication he needed to survive that weren’t covered by my work-provided insurance. I still think about how the quality of his recovery would have been different if we did not have access to the coverage we had at the time. And now, in a pandemic, I would be terrified to think about what it would be like to bring this fragile, medically complex baby home without knowing that his coverage would be guaranteed. He still struggles with chronic respiratory issues and I worry about keeping him safe every day, but I am hopeful that the worst is behind him. I have Medicaid to thank for getting us through it.

Nearly half a million Coloradans enrolled in coverage thanks to Medicaid expansion and the ACA caused the uninsured rate in our state to drop nearly 10 percent. The expansion increased access to care nearly 10 years ago and now, in times of a pandemic, that’s what we need to keep us healthy. Widespread, comprehensive access to care is critical as COVID-19 cases soar in Colorado and across the country.

Despite this, President Trump and Senator Gardner are working to end Medicaid and limit access to care, just when Coloradans need it the most. When a pandemic strikes, we can see that we need to care for each other more, not less. Some of us, like my son, are more at risk than others and this is exactly the time to ensure they have the access to care they need and deserve.

When people lose coverage, we are undermining prevention and treatment of diseases nationwide and creating poor health outcomes for millions of Americans. Now more than ever, we must ensure access to quality, affordable care; that means protecting Medicaid, not gutting it.

Every day, the Coronavirus brings new uncertainty for families across the country. I worry whether going grocery shopping will bring the virus back to my family. I am near the end of my schooling to become a registered respiratory therapist, and I worry that working on the frontlines could expose my loved ones to this and other scary diseases. But I shouldn’t have to worry about whether my son will have access to the care he needs if something happens.

For my son, Medicaid was a lifeline that allowed him to survive after birth and to thankfully thrive now. At almost four, he is a sweet, loving kid who loves being outside and playing with his siblings. For so many other kids like him, but also seniors, low income Americans, and people with disabilities, Medicaid is the only way to get care. During a global health care emergency we should have leaders who want to expand access to Medicaid, not limit it, so all people can access the health care they need. We are only as strong as our most vulnerable populations, and it is imperative that we protect their care.

The Colorado Independent occasionally runs guest posts from government officials, local experts and concerned citizens on a variety of topics. These posts are meant to provide diverse perspectives and do not represent the views of The Independent. To pitch a guest post, please contact tips@coloradoindependent.com or visit our submission page.

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