Separate health care, political influence

By Rachel Rose Reagan | Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette
Feb. 11, 2020

As a mother who has relied on Medicaid to give birth and today has children who live with severe food allergies, I am one of the millions of Americans living in a semi-permanent state of health care anxiety. President Donald Trump’s 2021 federal budget proposal isn’t helping me or the many other Hoosier families concerned about the future of our health.

The president’s proposed budget extends by another decade tax breaks that mainly benefit the wealthy while making $292 billion in cuts to critical programs such as Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance as well as cuts to housing and food assistance programs.

Trump has claimed that health care access and affordability have improved under his leadership. In last week’s State of the Union address, he even attempted to pit the health care voter against our immigrant brothers and sisters’ health if we want to “keep our premiums low.”

But the truth is that premiums have soared since he took office and the number of uninsured people has risen because of his actions, particularly as a result of the changes he’s made to Medicaid. The 2021 budget blueprint reprises the same harmful proposals we’ve seen in previous budgets, doubling down on policies that cut health care and services for the people who need them most, including low-wage workers, people with disabilities, seniors, veterans and women, while giving tax cuts to the wealthy and to corporations that keep raising prices to pad their profits.

Today, one in five Americans depends on Medicaid for health care coverage, and 1.3 million Hoosiers get quality health care through Medicaid. Medicaid pays for 47% of all births in our state and ensures mothers and their children can get the health care they need to get a healthy start to life.

My first daughter was one of the 47%. My husband and I were both working full time in manufacturing, but still needed Women, Infants and Children and Medicaid support to make ends meet.

Then, we both lost our jobs within months of each other. As new parents both out of work, I worried daily about where payment for the light bill would come from, and how we would afford groceries. Medicaid coverage was the only constant for our family at the time. When my 2-month-old daughter began throwing up and, later on, finding it hard to breathe, we would not have been able to afford the battery of tests, the breathing apparatus and medicine she needed to manage her asthma and severe food allergies without it.

After we both found employment, and transitioned from Medicaid, we found ourselves expecting again. Hours away from my second daughter coming into the world, my husband’s employer told him he’d be fired if he didn’t come in for his shift that evening. They tried to take my partner when our family needed him most to be there with us. Because his employer terminated him, our daughter’s birth wasn’t covered by COBRA. We received thousands of dollars in medical bills.

In a state and country that pride themselves on being “pro-family,” why should working people face such a permanent state of uncertainty – constantly forced to choose between family and their jobs or their health care. The Trump administration and the local legislators backing his health care positions don’t care about our families.

The dramatic cuts to Medicaid in the federal budget proposal would put my health care at risk, along with many other people’s, and would drain money from our state’s budget, forcing further cuts in programs and services.

Going into this election cycle, I have the following message for Trump and any other politician who thinks they can promise to stand with working people and then repeatedly side with corporate profits: Don’t underestimate the average American.

And, to the average American of every background, every political persuasion, I say the following: Don’t give in to the constant lies! Don’t give in to the cynicism that there is nothing you can do about the outsized influence of money and special interests in our political system.

Instead of siding with fear that divides and lies that distract, let’s unite around our common experience and across race and pain, to choose legislators who will fight for everyday people’s health, well-being and safety, not sell it off to the highest bidder.

Rachel Rose Reagan is a member of Faith in Indiana, Allen County.

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