Guest Opinions

My daughter’s heroes were made possible by Medicaid. Now I worry we will lose them

Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, arrives on Capitol Hill Tuesday as the Senate considered health care legislation
Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, arrives on Capitol Hill Tuesday as the Senate considered health care legislation AP

When my daughter was diagnosed with autism at a very young age I was told that the outlook was grim. There is no cure, no treatment, no known cause and she would more than likely “not amount to much.” They told me she would require a great deal of therapy just to do everyday things, and the sooner she received it the better. The services our family received through Medicaid provided us with a critical lifeline and, most importantly, gave us hope. It’s our personal experience that informs my deep fears about the dangerous Medicaid cuts proposed in both the ever-changing federal healthcare bill and the budget that recently came out of the House Budget Committee.

It is difficult to explain the transition of priorities when you are told your child will have a lifelong, debilitating disability. “Overwhelming” and “excruciating” only brush the surface. I was scared and alone. When we started receiving services from individuals who gave us hope and understanding, I shed tears of joy.

Over the years we have been blessed with the most amazing people working with her: therapists, teachers, social workers, and interventionists all pitching in to support Macie. Each person contributing to Macie’s progress — they are my family’s heroes. They taught me, guided me and inspired me. I discovered that Macie was capable of so much; that the outlook wasn’t grim. These heroes did not do it for the meager money, but because they believe in a strong family unit and in helping us all achieve as much independence as possible.

These heroes were made possible by Medicaid. The new changes proposed to cap and cut Medicaid would dramatically affect me, my daughter, my family and our community. Quite frankly, they terrify me.

Gandhi said, “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

People with disabilities add a depth, richness and diversity to our communities. Their experiences and opinions are an asset, just like everyone else’s. What does it say about our society when we turn our backs on the people that need us the most? These changes will shift the financial responsibility of supporting people with disabilities to our state, and in Idaho we simply do not have the funds to spare.

When facing a conflict I try to step back and consider where the parties involved are coming from. Perhaps lawmakers were so focused on cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans that they simply overlooked the effects this would have. Perhaps they overlooked how Medicaid provides skill-building opportunities to people with disabilities. Maybe they aren’t aware of the implications it would have on our economy. It is possible that they are not aware that even schools face additional challenges when Medicaid is cut? Do they not know how many families rely on Medicaid for survival?

There is no question, Medicaid is critical to people with disabilities in Idaho. Please join me in calling on our senators to reject any cuts to Medicaid.

Lana Gonzales, of Idaho Falls, is director of children’s services at Journeys DDA and board president of the Children with Disabilities Foundation.