Is the Legislature even listening?

Added May 2nd, 2018 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs

As a legislator I took seriously my duty to serve the people I represented. I made it a priority to stay informed, to read the latest data and reports on each issue, and to ask experts for their opinions. But one of the most important aspects of my work was to listen. My constituents were not just data points. They were people. It was my job to hear their voices, and I’ve carried that priority with me to the League.

Unfortunately, listening to constituents and making informed decisions appears to be a lost art in the Legislature. Two weeks ago, the Michigan Senate passed Senate Bill 897, a proposal to take away Medicaid and the Healthy Michigan Plan from folks who don’t work a stringent number of hours. On May 2, I testified in opposition to this bill in the House Appropriations Committee, but they may take it up for a vote any day now. Please help stop it.

 

(Wes Stafford, Wednesday, May 28, 2008) The waiting room fills long before patients are seen Wednesdays at the Helen M. Nickless Health Clinic, 1458 W. Center Road, Hampton Township.

(Wes Stafford, Wednesday, May 28, 2008) The waiting room fills long before patients are seen Wednesdays at the Helen M. Nickless Health Clinic, 1458 W. Center Road, Hampton Township.

 

In pushing this legislation, Republican lawmakers are ignoring state and federal data and analysis, the large group of advocates opposing this bill, and the hundreds of concerned residents that have reached out to their offices. And they are disregarding the real Michiganders who would be impacted—real Michiganders who have been sharing their stories and fears with us.

Ralph H. is self-employed and works from home because he needs to care for his wife, who is disabled. For 10 years, Ralph went without health insurance, as many self-employed people do. When he was approved for the Healthy Michigan Plan, Ralph was finally able to get surgery for a blood clot. Since being on the plan, he still lacks stable income, but at least he hasn’t been worried about his basic healthcare needs. “Some months, we’re lucky if we have $100 left over, once we pay all our bills, so we’re hardly running away with the state’s money.”

He’s nervous because due to the lack of information and clarity on the bill, he’s not sure he can continue to receive healthcare. “Without the coverage, I would essentially be thrown back into the situation that I confronted before I finally got it. That’s one more worry that I certainly do without.”

Kristen H. (no relation) shared a cautionary story with us. She lost her job—and insurance coverage—when her daughter was diagnosed with a genetic syndrome and required more care than Kristen could manage while working. It’s every parent’s nightmare. Kristen, a single mom, found herself suddenly unemployed, with no insurance, and caring for three kids, including a child facing major health issues. “The next several years were very difficult financially as I wasn’t able to work, but we managed to get by. I ended up having a minor surgery during that time that could have seriously impacted my health. Without Medicaid, I may have put off getting care, resulting in serious harm. I may not have been here to provide care not only for my disabled daughter, but my other two children as well. It not only could have impacted my health, but I could have ended up in a financial hole I couldn’t get out of as well.”

Because of Medicaid, Kristen was able to care for her daughter and eventually she was able to work again. But she’s terrified for other parents who might find themselves in her situation: “I would have been one of the individuals who may not be here today if these requirements were in place when my family so desperately needed the safety net that Medicaid provided.”

Therese O. is a 54-year-old widow who receives Medicaid. She couldn’t afford insurance payments after her husband died, and she now works from home. Her work, though, doesn’t offer healthcare and she doesn’t earn enough to purchase it on her own. “This proposal to make Medicaid recipients work 29 hours per week will cause me to lose my Medicaid. If I could work that much, I wouldn’t need Medicaid. I am housebound and I have no family to help me.”

Mitch and Julie B. are married and both self-employed. While Mitch is a veteran and has health insurance through Veterans Affairs, he wrote that “the only way we can afford healthcare for my wife is with Medicaid.” They are worried about how self-employed people will prove their work hours. But they have another concern—homeschooling their daughter. As Julie shared, “Between the two of us we work 60+ hours a week so that one of us can be with our child. Why should one of us have to get a low-paying job so that we can put her in school, pay for childcare and afterschool care?”

These are just some of the stories we’ve heard. Other potential concerns include people who work seasonal jobs or people in the service industry with unpredictable work hours, and those with mental health challenges. People like Ralph, Kristen, Therese, Mitch and Julie, and others need to know they can continue receiving healthcare. They are already living in perilous situations, uncertain from week to week whether they’ll be able to afford the basics. We’re terribly concerned that some in the Legislature seem to be ignoring stories like these and are instead insisting on cutting people off.

Stable healthcare allows people to work. Taking away healthcare just creates yet another barrier to holding down a job to support one’s family. These requirements would be a great burden to patients, hospitals, employers and state offices. The question I’m wondering is, “Other than the perceived health of some candidates’ campaigns, who is this poorly conceived policy really helping?”

— Gilda Z. Jacobs

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