***For Immediate Release***
June 15, 2017
Contact, Jeff Sheldon
Nebraska Appleseed Communications Director
Office: (402) 438-8853
Cell: (402) 840-7289
Nebraskans helped by Medicaid urge Senators against cuts
Constituents share Medicaid success stories and tell Senators to protect health coverage
LINCOLN — Thursday, Nebraskans who have been helped by Medicaid urged U.S. Senators to oppose any cuts to the federal health insurance program and shared personal stories of how important Medicaid has been to their families at a statewide media roundtable.
The American Health Care Act, passed by the House of Representatives in May, would be devastating to many Nebraskans’ ability to afford health insurance. Besides significant premium increases for older adults and people with low incomes, the bill also slashes Medicaid by nearly $900 billion and fundamentally changes the program’s structure leading to future cuts. Effectively, the AHCA would cut Nebraska’s share of federal Medicaid funding by $1 billion over the next 10 years.
The yet-to-be-released Senate health care bill reportedly contains similar drastic cuts to Medicaid.
In Nebraska, Medicaid covers nearly 230,000 people – approximately 1 in 8 Nebraskans. Almost all of them (91 percent) are children, seniors, and people with a disability. In other words, it provides vital health coverage to the Nebraskans who need it most.
Susan Williams of Omaha spoke Thursday about how Medicaid helps provide essential behavioral health services to her children, one of whom is a son challenged by severe autism. Susan made the decision to work part time in order to provide care for her son and credited Medicaid with covering services that have helped her son make progress in some of his significant challenges.
“If it wasn’t for Medicaid, I wouldn’t be able to pay for his day care,” Williams said. “Because of my son’s needs, I didn’t have much of a choice to keep working full time. To have those services and that insurance available to us is so important to my family. It’s so important to his growth, his health, and to our family as a whole.
“If we didn’t have services available to us, we probably wouldn’t have any form of communication with him because of the severity of his disability.”
Katie Nungesser of Lincoln spoke about using Medicaid to get essential coverage for her infant daughter and herself when going to back to school after having to close her small business. Katie knew working minimum-wage jobs provided a limited future for her family, so with the help of Medicaid, Katie’s family stayed covered while she completed school. She now works a job that allows her to provide for her family and no longer need public services.
“There was just no way for me to sustain my child and I here in Lincoln with the cost of housing,” Nungesser said. “I decided, with the help of Medicaid, that I could go back to school. It covered my child, and then also give me the health care I needed to be a healthy parent for her and not rack up medical bills trying to make a living. I was able to enroll in school, and within a couple years, obtain a job that paid a living wage, so I no longer needed any state services.
“It was there for us, and it was really a game-changer to allow me to bridge that gap and be self-sufficient. I just would be really sad to see any decisions made by our Senators that could take that opportunity away from another Nebraskan.”
Amanda Gershon also shared her Medicaid success story. For years, she was unable to afford health care and struggled with chronic autoimmune disorders that ultimately sent her to the hospital. After finally being approved for Medicaid, she was able to get the care needed to make a dramatic recovery. However, Gershon cautioned that cutting Medicaid could put her health back in dire conditions. She asked Senators not to support any bill that would set her progress backwards.
“They were finally able to get my health to a point where I can maintain it. I can be more active,” Gershon said. “I gained back 50 pounds in a year, which puts me back in adult clothing. I looked awful. But as bad as I looked on the outside, I felt worse on the inside. Now, I’m stabilized enough to enroll in (Southeast Community College), and I’m excited to start this summer. I’m hoping by the end of school, I will be ready to go get a job, and be done with Medicaid, and go get my own insurance.”
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