July 07, 2011

White House Visit Today Stirs Passionate Responses to Save Medicaid

When Meg Comeau's daughter Sarah was born with special health care needs, she and her husband felt reassured by the fact that her husband's employer had private insurance to help cover the multiple therapies and highly specialized services Sarah required in order to remain alive. But co-pays and deductibles quickly caught up to the Comeau family and they found themselves confused and swimming in debt. 

The Delaware family was petrified of bankruptcy but found a life line through a Medicaid ‘buy in' option available in the state where they had previously lived which allowed them to get assistance for critical services not covered by their primary health care provider. Today, Meg says that, "Private health insurance saved my daughter's life and Medicaid saved our home."  She and her husband were not forced to sacrifice their entire family's well-being in order for their daughter to live with dignity at home. 

Like the many other parents and caregivers raising children with special health care needs, Meg brought her story of hope along with serious concern that critical services provided by Medicaid may be reduced or cut altogether as a result of deficit reduction initiatives.

Fortunately, President Obama's framework for Medicare rejects plans that would end Medicare as families know it or replace it with underfunded block grants to states that would put children with special health care needs in real danger.  Some policymakers are suggesting that states could get one-third less for Medicaid by 2021, potentially leaving more than 15 million people at risk including children and pregnant women, adults with disabilities or seniors in need of vital services.  The human cost for such cuts would be enormously difficult to describe or measure in words.

But it's not just the children who depend on Medicaid, it's the entire family.  Dianne Malley, a dedicated parent from New Jersey wanted to make sure officials heard, "When my daughter Carissa is doing well, we all are doing much better."  The challenges of caring for her daughter are certainly felt by all members of the family and Medicaid helps families to cope.

Family Voices, (www.familyvoices.org) a national leader in family-centered care, brought these families (along with a stack of important printed stories submitted by parents across the country) to the White House to highlight the ongoing need for programs such as Medicaid.  Family Voices has championed the urgent needs of families to get appropriate and coordinated services against a backdrop of complex bureaucracies and limitations of private health care insurers in order to provide children with adequate care.  The families are living examples that Medicaid is not a substitute for basic health insurance or a replacement. Instead, Medicaid works to make the difference so that children will be able to live in their own homes, receive care that allows them to grow and develop and for families to keep pace with the unique challenges often felt by those raising children with special health care needs. 

Rylin Rogers, a hard working mother and Family Voices Advocate from Indiana was passionate about coming to the White House with her 11-year-old daughter, Laura in tow.  They wanted everyone to know that, "Without Medicaid, many families, including ours, aren't able to work because we are caring for our children 24/7.  If we can't work, we'll lose access to private insurance that significantly reduces our children's cost to public programs."  Laura even blogged about her trip to the White House giving up precious pixels usually reserved for topics that busy middle schoolers enjoy so she could explain that her specialized mobility equipment was purchased with Medicaid.  Laura relies exclusively on her scooter and would not be nearly as independent without it.

Laura, along with the rest of the Family Voices group made their way to Washington D.C. wanting to add their own powerful voices to further sound the call to protect Medicaid for those that need it the most.

To read the amazing individual stories of families that were submitted, please visit the Family Voices website at www.familyvoices.org.