Labor voices: Michigan needs Medicaid

Lisa Walker

My family is my rock, but we’re on shaky ground when it comes to health care. Since Republicans in Congress voted to rip health care away from 23 million people and gut Medicaid, I’m worried for my family’s future.

I’m 61 years old. Severe osteoporosis has left me confined to bed. My bones are fragile, my teeth break easily, and I need help getting around. My husband is also disabled, which makes caring for our daughter, who has Down syndrome, particularly challenging. We’re able to live at home as a family — instead of separate nursing homes — thanks to home care services we receive through Medicaid.

Here in Michigan, “1.75 million children, seniors, pregnant women, and disabled individuals [are] served by traditional Medicaid,” according to Gov. Rick Snyder. About one third of those Michiganians got health care thanks to the Healthy Michigan program funded through the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans put their interests over their constituents’ by voting “yes” to the American Health Care Act (AHCA). They insist nobody will lose coverage, but that’s not what the numbers show. In addition to stranding 24 million Americans without health care, premiums will go up as much as 20 percent, according to an independent analysis from the Congressional Budget Office. Medicaid will be cut by $880 billion — and 1 in 5 Americans will be at risk of losing their health care, including seniors in nursing homes, people with disabilities, and families like my mine who rely on home care services.

Families across Michigan depend on Medicaid. Mothers and fathers who couldn’t afford treatment, who went bankrupt trying to pay medical bills, who watched their children go uninsured because a childhood illness blew through their lifetime insurance cap. Grandparents who are able to live at home thanks to home care services. Neighbors, friends, and co-workers whose lives have been changed with access to health care.

Now, tens of millions of people across the country could be forced to choose between paying the rent and paying insurance premiums. An analysis by the Center for American Progress shows the “surcharge” insurance companies would be allowed to charge people with pre-existing conditions could total more than $142,000.

Diabetics may find themselves rationing too-expensive insulin. Hardworking parents may put off seeing a doctor until their once-treatable conditions land them in the hospital. Aging Americans and people with disabilities may find themselves without adequate home care — unable to use the toilet or bathe on their own.

It isn’t just my family that’s on shaky ground when it comes to health care — it’s all of us. It’s up to the senators in Washington, now — Republican and Democrat — to choose a bipartisan solution that provides quality, affordable health care coverage for all Americans. In Michigan, that means saving Medicaid.

Lisa Walker lives in Canton and is a retired nurse.

Labor voices

Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook.