As a young mother doing it on my own, Medicaid has become a necessity.
After giving birth at 17, I re-enrolled in high school in my hometown of Austin, Texas. But I felt lost. I didn’t know how I could take care of my son — an experience that was entirely new and scary for me — and finish school.
Meanwhile, my son Futur faced his own health concerns. The first few months of his life involved constant visits to different doctors trying to diagnose him. He was struggling to hold down food, and no one knew what we could feed him without making him sick.
At six months old, he was referred to a specialist who diagnosed his condition, and he was given new medication to treat it. Futur had his first birthday in January, and his health has dramatically improved since he received the proper medication.
Throughout this frustrating experience, there was one constant that helped give me some peace of mind: Medicaid.
Thanks to Medicaid, I received prenatal care through providers I trusted. Medicaid helped cover my delivery and hospital stay when I gave birth. Medicaid helped cover all the doctor visits we needed to make sure Futur could eat.
Medicaid became a major lifeline and support as I figured out how to be a new mom. While I take pride in being independent, I know that without programs like Medicaid, I wouldn’t be able to properly care for my baby.
The country is currently having two very different conversations about health care.
Some elected officials and candidates for office are debating how to expand access to care to more Americans. Meanwhile, states like Texas still reject the opportunity to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which makes it harder for young people like me to get the care they need to live with dignity.
We’re the ones who get lost in the debates in statehouses and Washington. And there are so many of us. Here in Texas, nearly 1.7 million people could benefit if our state decided to expand Medicaid — including more than 600,000 who don’t have any coverage now.
Rather than making it harder to get access to Medicaid, as many are proposing, we should be focusing on ensuring everyone can get access to the care they need.
Despite the complicated process, I was able to get enrolled in Medicaid for myself and my newborn, and I’m grateful that I did. But I worry about the millions of other young people in my situation struggling to make ends meet and unsure of where to turn for that help.
That’s what programs like Medicaid can provide — a support network during challenging times. And that support can make all the difference.
I’m proud to say that since Futur’s birth, I earned my GED and am currently working towards a certified nursing certificate. Meanwhile, I’m working two minimum wage jobs and have the full-time job of being a parent.
It’s still hard. But none of this would have been possible without Medicaid. Medicaid saw my son and me through uncertain times, and we’re covered by the program now as I work to create a better future for us.
As debates continue around how to improve our health care system, please remember that programs like Medicaid are more than a political talking point — they help people like my son and me stay healthy and live happy, dignified lives.