When people have access to the care they need to get and stay healthy, everyone benefits. Physical and mental health provide the foundation and support for thriving families and communities. Medicaid expansion in Wyoming would provide a vital support system to thousands that currently lack this essential component of success.
I am the proud single mother of a beautiful 17-year-old daughter. Since having her at a young age, I have been the primary caregiver and sole provider for the two of us.
I come from a family of proud Wyomingites that taught me to never shy away from a hard day's work. My first job was working in, and eventually managing, fast food chains my family owned and operated here in Wyoming. I’ve always found a way to provide for my family, sometimes with second, third or even fourth jobs.
However, none of my employers have ever offered insurance, not even when I held management positions.
My work ethic has always put food on the table and kept a roof over our heads, but it hasn’t saved me from immense amounts of "mom guilt." How has my time away with those long hours affected her? Nor has it helped me wrestle with difficult decisions that come from living without health insurance. Questions like, “How long can I put off seeing a dentist about this toothache?” or, “Should I make the appointment or pay the mortgage?”
When my daughter began experiencing serious health issues around 11 years old, I became desperate for affordable, high-quality health care.
I made slightly too much money for my daughter to qualify for Wyoming’s current Medicaid program. But that did not mean I earned enough to pay out-of-pocket costs for the endless diagnostic testing or expensive treatments for her worsening symptoms.
Children from low-income homes in Wyoming often qualify for health insurance through CHIP — even when the adults in the home cannot — but that wasn’t true for our family. Eventually I sent my daughter to live with family members in Montana where they had access to community health care clinics available to people without insurance.
We eventually received a diagnosis of anemia, and she was able to return home. We manage her condition, but it comes at a cost — a high one. And when she began experiencing her own mental health struggles in recent years, it has always been a question of what to prioritize, her physical or mental wellbeing?
My daughter will be heading off to college next year. She's worked very hard, and I’m so proud of her. But I worry about how she will manage her conditions on her own — without access to health insurance.
Having health insurance coverage as she heads off on her own would help her to develop healthy habits and a realistic knowledge of costs versus needs when it comes to her physical and mental health. She wouldn’t have to choose between her physical and mental health. I wish I could be the one to provide her that support.
But we as a state can give her that support. We have the solution. Medicaid Expansion would give her, and so many others like her, access to healthcare so they can focus on school. We can provide our children some stability and set them up for success as they go out on their own.