For some of us, it may seem like this whole great Medicaid debate is a little bit outside our sphere. Perhaps we have become sort of desensitized by the constant swath of media coverage. Perhaps we don’t see how it will impact us directly or there isn’t a sense of urgency because our own healthcare needs are being met. I get it; life is tough enough just dealing with the stuff in our own lane. It is quite human of us to be somewhat removed from the vast array of social justice concerns in this world when there is an absence of immediate consequences or a foreseen potential impact on our own lives. For me however, it is as simple as this: I would most likely not be alive today without having had access to Medicaid 12 years ago.
As an unemployed 23-year-old in Philadelphia who was struggling with serious mental health and addiction challenges, I obtained Medicaid in order to get the treatment and recovery support services I so desperately needed. On the outside, I may have appeared to be a person who was “able-bodied” or “just looking for a free hand out.” You may have looked at me and thought that I was just trying to “mooch off of the system” and your hard earned tax dollars. On the inside however, I was dying, and all of the potential that was stored inside of me to bring out into the world was on the verge of going to the grave with me. I was unwell and I needed help. At the time, I so desperately wanted to be able to contribute to my family, my community and society-at-large. It was just that I simply required assistance in order to get the healthcare services that were so critically needed for me to get well enough to be that contributor.
Today, 12 years later and 11 years off of Medicaid, I am the contributing member of my family, my community and society-at-large that I had the potential to be. I have now long been an employed taxpayer who has served others across the City of Philadelphia and surrounding counties in a variety of human service roles. I now travel around the country and support other state systems in their efforts to provide quality behavioral health services. I am now a writer who serves society-at-large through my social-justice focused writing. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Social Work and am now an Ivy League graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. I have had the privilege of getting to positively impact many other individuals in their own efforts to achieve wellness for themselves, their families and their communities.
Without having had access to Medicaid, all of the gifts that were stored inside of me to bring out into the world would have gone to the grave with me. Having access to Medicaid wasn’t just about me getting better; it was about the world around me getting better as well. When I had the opportunity to find recovery, the world around me had an opportunity to receive all of the human capital that was stored inside of me. Having access to Medicaid wasn’t just a benefit to me; there has been an endless ripple of benefits to the entire world around me. So even if you haven’t seen yourself directly impacted by what happens with healthcare in this country, believe me, you are. And even if you don’t feel a sense of urgency around getting involved in some way, believe me, there is urgency. If it is hard to see the impact or the urgency, look at my life. My life would not be what it is today had I not had access to Medicaid. Quite possibly, my life that has served as a benefit to so many others would not even exist.