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Getting to Know Us: Karen Clay, Disability Community Advocate

1. Tell us about your role at your organization? Your role at FVH?

I currently serve as President of the Democratic Disability Caucus of Florida and also that of Co-Chair of the Southeast Region of the DNC Disability Council. My roles in both are to increase the number of Disability Caucuses and to advocate politically on behalf of the disability community.

My role at FVH will be to spotlight the Disability Community and increase awareness and buy in to the Expansion of Medicaid as it directly impacts individuals with disabilities in the state of Florida.

2. How do you feel your own personal values align with the mission, vision, and values of FVH?

My personal values as an advocate align with those of FVH because Medicaid is not only an essential lifeline to the citizens of Florida, but to individuals with disabilities. Medicaid is IMPERATIVE based upon the socioeconomic roadblocks imposed upon individuals with disabilities and their ability to access health care.

My mission is to increase awareness of the need for Medicaid expansion among individuals with disabilities and the family and care givers close to them whose lives are impacted.

My vision is to broaden the base of Medicaid expansion support in Florida through collaborative efforts with existing disability organizations and individuals. This involves:

Education: Identifying the current “state of the state.”

Historical Perspective: Identifying a timeline indicating what legislation and policy decisions got us to where we are today.

Moving Forward: Identifying ways that organizations and individuals can better advocate on behalf of individuals with disabilities on issues directly relating to Health Care/Medicaid.

3. In your opinion, what do you think is the biggest challenge in healthcare today?

I think the biggest challenge is ACCESS. The health care system in our country is ranked as one of the best in the free world, but accessing that care is another matter altogether. Even individuals WITH health insurance face roadblocks (for example, upon registering for a surgical procedure in hospital, an individual is required to pay UP FRONT before admission).

For individuals without health insurance, ACCESS is a virtual impossibility.

4. Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you?

My Mike. Our journey was one of accessing health care for almost 40 years. We had Health Insurance provided through employment that resulted in lifetime caps, denials, exclusion due to pre-existing conditions, and even job loss because of my sons underlying medical condition. It is BECAUSE of my Mike that I understand the "how-to's" of health care access AND the comparisons between “employment-based health insurance,” Medicaid, and Dual Enrollment in Medicare & Medicaid.

Mike is the reason for my passion and conviction regarding health care as a right and not a privilege!

5. What do you enjoy in your favorite breakfast that you make at home?

Scrambled eggs with non-dairy cream cheese, home fries with lots of onions (ketchup on the side), gluten free toast and coffee.

6. What is one piece of advice for someone wanting to pursue a career in Public Health / non-profit sector?

Passion and commitment. One has to be a fighter. In the words of Ruth Bader Ginsburg: "Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you."


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