Why Medicaid Matters to Kids

I had always heard about Medicaid -- heard the media portray it as a handout, as health care available to those who can't or won't help themselves. I never thought it was something my family might need.

But all of that changed when my daughter was born with her heart outside her body. Eight out of 1 million babies are diagnosed with this rare condition each year and 90 percent of those children do not survive. But our Audrina defied the odds thanks to the impressive medical care we received at Texas Children's Hospital.

On her second day of life, Audrina underwent a six and a half hour surgery to place her heart back inside her body, but that was really only the beginning. She spent three and a half months in the CVICU (cardiovascular intensive care unit) at Texas Children's and three and a half months in Houston, receiving outpatient care. Audrina is currently on one liter of oxygen, an NG tube for feeding and receiving speech and physical therapy two times a week along with a weekly cardiology check up at Texas Children's.

As you may well imagine, this turned our world upside down. Far away from the comforts of home, we were spending every second in Houston fighting for our baby's survival. The emotional burden was tough, but the financial burden was something we couldn't have managed on our own.

We never would have been able to afford the complicated surgery, let alone the cost of Audrina's treatment and recovery over the next six months, had it not been for Medicaid. To our surprise, Medicaid even covered lodging and meal funding during our stay in Houston -- a huge help and relief during Audrina's medical journey.

Audrina's case was certainly rare, but we were not the only parents who needed Medicaid to help our child have a chance at a healthy life.

Another mom I met told me how her teenage daughter lost her legs and fingers to Meningitis. Thankfully doctors were able to save her life, and Medicaid has made it possible for her to have rehabilitation and prosthetics. This is another great example of how Medicaid is making life better for children and families.

In the state of Texas, like other states across the country, our elected officials passed on the opportunity to expand Medicaid coverage to approximately 1.5 million people. That's a lot of people who currently don't have health care and could be brought into care. That's good for the state, good for the economy and good for public health.

Unfortunately, we have stopped looking at Medicaid through the lens of health care for those who are critically ill and those wanting to stay healthy, and are instead looking at Medicaid solely as state budget Cost -- never acknowledging the significant benefit it provides to millions of Americans in every state.

I traveled to D.C. last week with Texas Children's Hospital and the Children's Hospital Association to stand alongside other families from Texas and across the United States who have benefited from Medicaid, to encourage Democrats and Republicans alike to join together in the fight to improve the health of our country. Support for Medicaid in D.C. is essential -- and I can only hope that the stigma surrounding this program lessens, as Americans hear stories like Audrina's.

Because when most Americans think of Medicaid, they think of somebody else. Medicaid is for poor kids in poor families, right? Families that should be able to buy their health coverage but won't. That's the image that many Americans have of Medicaid. But what I have learned is that Medicaid isn't just about "those kids" or "those families," it's about all kids, all families. It's about pregnant women, it's about the disabled. Medicaid is about all of us. It's a stepping stone available to people when the unexpected occurs.

As a parent you never want to think that you can't afford any or all medical necessities that your child might need to stay alive. But in our family's case, we never could have done it without the help of Medicaid. And now it's time to make sure other families get the same fighting chance.