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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Voices of Care: Celeste and Larry

This blog is part of an ongoing series of stories from people across the country who would be negatively affected by the ACA repeal bill currently being negotiated in Congress.

If Congress repeals the Affordable Care Act and cuts Medicaid, millions of people will lose their health coverage. Celeste from National City, Michigan, and her husband are two of them. She shared her health care story with us:

My husband and I worked our entire lives. Larry worked as a stone mason, while I pursued an advanced degree and a career in social work. We purchased several homes, and saved for retirement. We built up a great safety net, but it all got yanked away. We’re now 63 and 61 and I don’t know what we’re going to do if the Senate takes away our access to Medicaid. 

In 2006, Larry was laid off from his job and he struggled to find another job in light of the Great Recession. It became really important for me to keep my job so that we could maintain insurance for both of us.  

Within a couple of years, Larry began to experience problems with his memory and doctors diagnosed him with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, because he had been out of work for so long, he wasn’t eligible for SSDI [disability] benefits. 

I had to leave my job because I became disabled. We were without any insurance until the [Affordable Care Act] marketplaces opened. In order to get by, we sold both of our houses, moved into a cottage, spent down our retirement, and took drastic measures to pay our medical bills and day-to-day living expenses. 

That first year, we bought a plan that cost us only $27/month. The next year, we qualified for expanded Medicaid. 

"Without access to Medicaid, we would have nothing. We might be able to get some care through an emergency room, but we live in a rural area. I know hospitals are closing, and it’s only a matter of time before our hospital closes. We drive over 50 miles to see specialists."

We paid into the system our entire working lives. I don’t think it is right that lawmakers are now threatening to take everything away from us.  

My parents immigrated to this country. English wasn’t their first language. Four out of five of us kids went to college, all of the grandchildren went to college. Everyone is well off but us, because of the circumstances we were dealt. My family has collectively paid into the system more than enough to cover us, but now they’re talking about ripping away benefits. Where is the justice in that? 

We are not losers. We are not freeloaders. We should not have to be embarrassed or shamed for needing help. There should be dignity in getting old and we should be enjoying our golden years but that has been taken from us and lawmakers want to make it worse.

Learn how you can get involved in the Protect Our Care campaign to stop Congress from cutting Medicaid.

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