SAN BENITO, RGV – Nearly half a century ago a law was passed that helps our country do a better job of advancing human dignity.
All these years later, the 1965 law that created Medicaid—which celebrates a birthday Wednesday—is still making it possible for millions of people to get quality, affordable health insurance that makes their lives better.
Medicaid covers millions of Texas children, as well as low-income seniors, expectant mothers, some very poor parents and people with lifelong disabilities. By doing so, it helps our communities get ahead. As more people are able to go to a doctor without having to worry if they can afford it, more also have financial security that makes a difference for our neighborhoods, businesses and schools.
Medicaid is a hot topic these days, in part because a Supreme Court decision two years ago left states with a choice about their Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Some states, including Texas, have decided not to offer Medicaid to some low-income, uninsured people who qualify under the nation’s health law. As a result, some working families and individuals in Texas will have a harder time getting health care than people just like them in other states.
Despite that, more Texans are finding out about the health insurance options available to them through Medicaid and the related Children’s Health Insurance Program, CHIP. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says, even without a coverage expansion, more Texans have enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. That’s good news for Texans, their families and their communities, because it leaves fewer people to fall through the health care system’s cracks.
Research has found that the benefits of Medicaid coverage extend to patients and communities alike. As more people get covered, more receive preventive care that saves lives. Medical bankruptcies—and related debts that otherwise get passed on to community hospitals and taxpayers—occur far less frequently. And people report feeling better: they’re far less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, and they experience a better quality of life.
The comprehensive health insurance Medicaid and CHIP offer is available to eligible Texans year-round. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 1 in 7 uninsured Texans—that’s more than 800,000 people—already qualify for Medicaid or CHIP. Getting them covered begins with making sure they know about their options to enroll.
Fortunately, the increased attention to health coverage this year appears to have helped more people find out they qualify for Medicaid and CHIP. Texas has seen more than 80,000 more Texans enroll in Medicaid or CHIP since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
One of them was the young son of Frances Acuña, a trained community health worker in Central Texas, who had been watching as more and more of her paycheck got spent on health care. Frances was devastated earlier this year when her 12 year old, who had already experienced a series of health concerns, was diagnosed with cancer.
The cost of his treatment, even with employer-sponsored health insurance, put the family’s financial stability at risk. When Frances lost her job last month, the situation took a turn for the worse. Fortunately, the child was able to get enrolled in Medicaid, so he stayed covered and kept getting the care he needed. He’s in treatment now and, according to his mom, on the path to recovery.
The 49-year-old law that created Medicaid continues to save and improve lives. Still, Texas has more work to do. Many uninsured Texans who qualify for the free or low-cost coverage Medicaid offers still need to find out about their options.
Texans can help to get out the word, making sure more families know the dignity that comes with affordable health coverage. The Get Covered America campaign has partnered with schools, child care centers, libraries, food banks, cities and churches to raise awareness among the Texans who don’t have to wait to get enrolled in affordable health coverage.
The more people who step forward to help Texans connect with Medicaid, CHIP and Affordable Care Act coverage, the better off our communities will be.
José Medrano is Regional Organizing Lead for Get Covered America’s Texas border region. To see what coverage members of your family may qualify for, visit GetCoveredAmerica.org/calculator.