My mom lost her life in the 80's because she didn’t have health insurance. Growing up my parents were self-employed which made insurance difficult. None of us were insured. We weren’t used to using public systems, but for a short time we were on food stamps. My parents were very prideful, though. We were upper middle class until the recession hit. Then we couldn’t pay the bills, because we didn’t have the money. When you have no money to pay a doctor bill, you just don’t go. So, by the time my mom found a mole and went to the doctor, she had Stage 3 Melanoma. She lived and fought for four more years, but eventually succumbed to the cancer. She died squarely because of her inability to get timely care. When she finally got care through Vocational Rehabilitation, they only allowed her to have the surgery that she needed. They would not cover radiation or chemotherapy when she undoubtedly needed both. I had a front seat to the horror families face watching their loved ones suffer and die because our healthcare system fails them. That’s when I set out to help people.
My husband and I are pretty well known in our community. People know that if there are children in need, we will step into the gap. We have always given hope and a home to kids who find themselves lost. We have literally had kids dropped off at our front door. Right now, we have a brother and sister living with us who were being labor trafficked. The brother has been with us for a while, but his sister only recently came to stay. She was in a very bad situation that was out of her control. While she was at school one day, her mother left and moved to Mexico. We had to track her Mom down and almost force her to send us a custody letter so that we can get her the help she needs.
I’ve been working with uninsured and underinsured families for years. I’m very familiar with the pubic healthcare system. In 2007, a few years before the Affordable Care Act, I spearheaded a health navigator program at my local Federally Qualified Health Center. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 eliminated paper applications to programs like Medicaid. When it went into effect in 2007, these local clinics found that kids were falling off Medicaid because parents couldn’t complete the computer application. So, I created a program to help families navigate the system and stay on Medicaid. We were one of eight pilot projects that were identified by President Obama's administration as a best practice model. It’s been replicated across the country and is still in existence today. Currently, I’m working on building a collective impact model so that families have a place to get one-stop care management across their lifespan.
Because of my experience as a child, I know all too well the importance of health insurance. I have always made sure that my husband and I had jobs that provided health insurance coverage. It’s my passion to make sure people have the benefits they’re entitled to and to make sure we have a little bit of equity for all people.