MediCal to the Rescue!

It would not be accurate or fair of me to say that my experience with public assistance programs has been all bread and roses.  So, I begin my story by sharing possible outcomes of situations in which one has no options for health care, due to self-employment, non-employment, indigence and/or preexisting conditions. 

My small family has lost two beautiful people, each of them my life partner at different times, who were also fathers to my only child.  My daughter’s natural father suicided when she was only 8 years old, after a long-term, severe bout of depression and ongoing financial losses led him to a state of no-employment and no health insurance.  After seeking help through a faith-based organization, which was the only organization he knew of to turn to in his time of need, he was prescribed a new, barely tested anti-depressant.  After a single dose from a doctor who took 15 minutes to hear his story, he took his own life.  He was 45 years old.

Five years later, my daughter lost her step-father, who was also my partner of seven years.  He had a chronic illness, but was never awarded Medical or Medicaid status, because he could not prove that he was incapable of working for a year straight.  You see, he was a lively spirit, and couldn’t convince anyone of the true depth of his disease, which left him physically and psychologically wrecked when it struck.  And it struck more and more often as he grew older.  His attempts at signing on to public health care programs usually ended up in a bed in San Francisco General Hospital, where they had no choice but to take him in, and where he finally died of a drug-resistant MRSA infection that he contracted while being treated for his ongoing illness.  He was 50 years old when he died, and we finally received notice of his MediCal award the day he died.  A bit too late, I’m afraid.

To this day, I am convinced that the outcomes would have been different had they each had a regular physician that knew their case histories, and they didn’t have to begin anew each time they were in need of critical care.  Perhaps they would still be living today had they had proper, regular medical care through a trusted health care program.

Things changed for us a few years later, when I turned 40.  At the time, I was self-employed, and both my daughter and I had preexisting conditions, which kept us from affording any sort of private health insurance.  A free breast exam program, begun by the State of California, allowed me the opportunity for my first and second mammograms at no cost to me.  It was after my second free mammogram that I learned I needed to have a biopsy, and when the doctors learned of lack of insurance,  I was promptly encouraged to apply for MediCal coverage for myself and my family.  We were also promptly accepted!  Lucky for me, the surgery resulted in a quick removal of the bad tissue, and no malignancy was found.  A few months later, I broke both of my arms in a bicycle accident, and received wonderful care under this same coverage.   Then, my daughter had her enormous tonsils removed, resulting in a cessation of years of sinusitis and heavy snoring.  Needless to say, these emergency procedures would have set us back many thousands of dollars that we did not have to spend in a single year.

I like to end with appreciations, and so I publicly thank the Federal and state government health care systems for the safety net they now provide to so many.  While it is a far cry from what I wish it to be, which is a single-payer health care system that allows for strong preventative care as well as treatment for ongoing health problems, it has recently saved my daughter and I from financial collapse, by giving us coverage when no one else would.  Without MediCal, we would be in a real bind, and I hope to see much-needed improvements to this program that tries to meet one our most basic human needs.

Thank you, MediCal!  May we all learn from our successes, as well as from our mistakes.

Food Stamps= Good Stamps

Food stamps has helped me many times in my life after leaving the nest. Leaving home was hard because I realize how well taken care of I was by my mom. She hustled and made sure my sister and I were clean and well fed.

I recently started my own business and I appreciate Food Stamps so much because as we all know new businesses don’t make any money during the first few years in business. When I first opened my shop I would try and give my all and my best customer service and I couldn’t because I could hear my stomach grumbling from hunger. Being hungry is such a bad feeling. I saw my face changing in the pictures I took to document my “success”  and all I saw was myself fading away. I was losing weight and my mood also suffered from the lack of good food. I would swallow my spit as the hours passed and wished someone from the neighborhood or a friend would stop by to offer me a plate or a bite to eat.

One day I went and applied for food stamps and was granted emergency food stamps as well as $200 a month for food. I felt like I hit the JACKPOT! I felt so blessed to be able to go into a supermarket and pick whatever my heart desired.

Since small biz folks aren’t always a priority for our country, public assistance has helped to ensure that I make myself a priority!!!

Food Stamps, Good Stamps!!!

Welfare Kept me Well

Without public assistance as a small child, teenager and young adult, I would not have had the positive life opportunities I’ve experienced. Coming from a family that were victims of poverty, foodstamps and medi-care, kept us fed and as healthy as possible within the limits it allowed. I am forever grateful.

Disability, subsidized housing, and good stamps. Thank you.

When my son was born, he brought laughter and joy into our lives. But his path in life turned out to be a difficult one. He clearly was very bright in school, but each year he fell further and further behind his classmates. A concerned teacher suggested that he get tested and we learned that he had severe learning disabilities. Fortunately, Albuquerque Public Schools offered a program for exceptional students like him. Even though it meant that he had to commute 120 miles round trip every day to attend the program, he was grateful for the opportunity. He earned his high school diploma because there were funds available to meet his needs.

After high school, my son was in a serious accident and suffered from Traumatic Brain Damage (TBI). Fortunately, he was still young enough to have his medical expenses covered by our family health insurance.  The final bill for the intensive care services and the rehabilitation facility was staggering. Had he been just a few years older, I don’t know what would have happened to him.

Now, he is a grown man living with the long-term effects of TBI. He cannot drive, his memory is severely compromised and he is unable to focus enough to hold a job. He has been homeless at times and would not have made it through the winter had it not been for our local homeless shelter.  He also suffers from seizures and other mental health problems as a result of his injury. He doesn’t have access to ongoing health care, but relies on the emergency room at the local hospital paid for by our county’s indigency fund.

Today, he and his girlfriend, who is also disabled, are able to survive because they receive disability payments, subsidized housing and food stamps.  They are part of the 47% of people who wish they could go to work every day and pay their pay taxes. They would love nothing more than to be self-sufficient, but that was not the hand they were dealt. The social safety net was designed for people like them. When our lawmakers work on the budget, I hope they remember my son and vote to keep the safety net in place.      

from first in my family to whooping cough - ibenefit

In College I received financial aid, including workstudy. I was the first in my family to go to college.  

All through college, as a student and single parent, I received childcare assistance to attend work and school … my kids had quality care and I could concentrate on my studies and work and not worry about their safety.

My family of three for 6 years received foodstamps, this helped me feed my kids home-cooked meals, eased some of my stress of how I was going to make rent on workstudy pay..

My kids qualified for medicaid for several years, during that time my children received health care and we survived a serious need for a tonsillectomy, an eye surgery, whooping cough and the annual sicknesses. 

There are so many people in my life that makes my family strong, and there are so many ways that public assistance has helped me succeed and my family to build our strength.  

Reduced school lunch

I was born and raised in a working class barrio in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The neighborhood I grew up in was more known for heroin than it’s acequias and small farms of its past.

My parents met at a Goodwill store. My father, from Iowa, was finishing up his alternative service after gaining conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War. My mom, with deep roots in New Mexico, was working her way through school.

Somehow they fell in love. And raised a family.

My father would eventually work for Farmer’s Home Administration, and later the USDA, mostly working to get First Nations families into homes. My mom would become a founder and long-time director of SouthWest Organizing Project. 

It was then that I remember how important it was for us to have a reduced lunch card at school, and how much it meant to our single income family.

This was the foundation upon which I grew. Strong families means safe and prosperous communities for everyone. Despite unfounded warnings of a “fiscal cliff,” now is the time to double down on families and strengthen the social safety net, not cut holes in it for families to fall through.

Thank you food stamps!

I was raised by a single mom in the 70’s.  She was young and divorced and without a college degree.  We got free lunch at school, and we had food stamps.  I remember feeling embarrassed at the time but not really being sure why. In retrospect I am so grateful that we were not hungry, and that our lives did not completely fall apart in those years. Eventually my mom got a degree, got a job…I remember worrying about money for school clothes and shoes, but not for food. I remain grateful to this day for that.  Thank you food stamps.