Dave Lounsberry, Lewiston. A little more than 10 years ago, when I had a good, steady mill job here in Lewiston, I was definitely one of those “doing fine.” After losing that great job and piecing together a living with part-time work, I am now one of those treading the “fine line.”
What scares me most, at age 59, besides watching my friends die, is going without access to health care. I don’t earn enough to qualify for the health care exchange. I would be eligible for coverage under expanded Medicaid – and so would more than 78,000 Idaho residents – but our Idaho governor and lawmakers have remained hesitant about the risk of accepting federal money.
I can tell them a little bit about risk. As a former U.S. Marine, I try to keep myself in good health. But at my age, I know the possibility of getting sick or injured is very real. I could lose everything I have struggled for. Providing health care to people in need is not a risk. By accepting the federal funds we are simply saying yes to bringing our own federal tax dollars back here to Idaho where it belongs. This money will save lives and create new living wage jobs. That is called common sense.
Robin Evans, Grangeville. Together my husband and I share a newspaper delivery contract. Seven days a week, we wake up early to deliver newspapers to neighboring communities. In total we travel an average of 575 miles each week over rural mountain passes and all the papers must be delivered before most people wake up. For all our dedication and commitment , we earn less than $1000/ month.
Shortly after I return home from the delivery route, I prepare for my second part-time job, working in the cafeteria at the elementary school. Combined, these two part-time jobs still leave us without a living wage, without access to health care and without sufficient income to meet monthly expenses.
Our family lives on about $13,000, and for our family size our income falls under 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). In Idaho, we are not eligible for health care through the Medicaid program. We also do not qualify for any subsidies in the Health Care Exchange, as subsidies begin at 100% FPL. No access to health care for more than five years played it toll last year on our family and we have racked up hospital bills of more than $25,000 and health issues demanding access. My husband has been unable to work because of medical issues, for which he has no access.
A lack of a decent wage has put us in a precarious housing situation. We are grateful to the generosity of a fellow church member for a house to rent, even though we struggle and fall behind on rent. Still, we keep doing the best that they can to get through each month, relying on community food programs and prioritizing which bills to pay and what medications we can live without. Without access to health care, we are walking time bombs. It’s time to take action and close the coverage gap!
Genevieve Sylvia, 20, Orofino. When I turned 19, I lost my Medicaid coverage. I was also diagnosed with a serious kidney condition. I want a better life. I studied hard to become a phlebotomist. I want a good job that pays a living wage, but there are few health care jobs available in northern Idaho. So I work as a home caregiver, making minimum wage and going without health insurance. I don’t make enough money to qualify for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. New reports show that expanded Medicaid would actually bring 16,000 more jobs — good paying jobs in the health field — to Idaho. It would put people to work. It would improve the state’s economy. A good job and access to health care is a win-win for everyone, but it could also save my life.
Ms. Sylvia is one of 78,000 Idahoans that could be helped by the Medicaid Redesign plan that is recommended by the Governor-appointed Medicaid expansion workgroup. Please call or write your legislators today and tell them to expand Medicaid in 2015!!