J, a 41-year-old mother of two in Joplin, has been uninsured for almost seven years and will qualify for Medicaid once the program is expanded on July 1st, 2021. Before Medicaid was expanded, J’s household income exceeded the stringent income eligibility limits currently in place. The last time J had health care coverage, she was pregnant and qualified for Medicaid for pregnant women. Unfortunately, this coverage expires 60-days postpartum. “Around here, it feels like you have to be pregnant, severely disabled, or homeless to qualify for most anything. And sometimes that’s not enough.”
J works part-time helping vendors with event planning and is also a family photographer and artist. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, opportunities for this kind of work have been slim, and these jobs do not offer health care coverage. J’s husband recently became eligible for insurance through his job in 2021, but it is too expensive to add J to the company’s plan. “We are on such a tight budget that even $25 a month could be the difference between having gas money or not.”
For J, getting Medicaid would remove a huge burden for her and her family. “I have severe asthma, and my medications are nearly $400 out of pocket each month. Without them, I don’t breathe.” Currently, J depends on pharmacy assistance programs, which can’t guarantee long-term support, to afford these necessary prescriptions.
“Having Medicaid would mean that I can have my follow-up mammograms and breast health appointments, after already requiring a biopsy without insurance. It means I can have less trouble with my asthma, fewer sick days. I could have my yearly exams for women’s health, and not put off health issues until they’re an absolute emergency. And I don’t have to be so afraid that my family could lose me to something that could’ve been caught early.”
J believes having health care will allow her to be more present for her kids, rather than spending hours a day making phone calls to get financial aid for her prescriptions and medical bills. And with the backdrop of the COVID pandemic, the fear of how to pay for a sudden medical emergency causes so much anxiety for J and her family – anxiety she says she can’t even be treated for.
“This is the reality the uninsured face every single day,” J says. “We work, we raise children, we help and serve our community. We aren’t asking for charity. We want the ability to keep working. To keep being productive members of society.”