Jenny's Medicaid Story: “LOOKING BACK, IF I DID NOT HAVE MEDICAID, I WOULD BE DEAD. IT SAVED MY LIFE.”
Meeting Jenny during her lunch break at her public service job was inspiring to say the least. As I listened to her story of pregnancy, cancer survival, job challenges, raising children, and taking care of her aging mother, I was reminded of so many other West Virginians who face multiple choices and challenges to keep their family and themselves healthy.
Jenny worked as a public service employee with Public Employee Insurance Agency (PEIA) health coverage for more than 12 years. Jenny went on medical leave in the fall of 2015 for her second pregnancy. Jenny and her husband and teenage son had carefully planned ahead – they saved and budgeted to pay her PEIA health insurance premiums while she was at home without income.
The successful pregnancy brought a beautiful baby girl into this world. But with bills and financial obligations beginning to pile up, Jenny felt the need to help provide for her family by going back to work after six weeks. Her choice was made easier with support from her own mother who was willing to watch the newborn while Jenny and her husband were working.
Unfortunately, like many of us have experienced, the best plans do not always work out. Jenny’s mother fell and shattered her femur at 64 years of age. Jenny had to think about how to best take care of her family.
Jenny decided she had no choice but to reduce her work hours to part-time so she could care for her newborn baby and her mother. With the reduction in hours, Jenny lost her PEIA health insurance. According to Jenny, they couldn’t put the baby girl on her husband’s insurance because they couldn’t afford the increase in family premiums with the change in income. At this point, Jenny wasn’t sure what her options were, but she knew she and her family needed health insurance protection.
In December of 2015, Jenny like many individuals trying to navigate the health insurance world, signed up through healthcare.gov and discovered she qualified for Medicaid thanks to the West Virginia Medicaid Expansion. Jenny was thrilled to learn that “It covered everything.”
With coverage for her baby girl and herself, Jenny and the baby were able to continue regular visits to their doctors. Jenny is clear that “I would not have gone to the doctor” without Medicaid. Even routine medical visits are expensive and Jenny – like most people – worry about being able to pay the doctor even for the cost of a basic doctor’s visit and screening tests.
And in this case, going to the doctor for a regular check-up saved Jenny’s life. A gynecological exam and pap smear in August of 2016 found a rare form of cervical cancer (a rare 85/20 combo of adenosarcoma and Squamish). Thanks to the care from her physician Dr. Ellie Hood at Valley Health, her life was saved.
Medicaid covered the robotic DaVinci surgery in 2017 for her hysterectomy to battle the cancer. Now, in January 2019, she can celebrate being cancer free, enjoy raising her children, and being back to work full time in the public service sector.
Jenny wants to remind her fellow West Virginians, “If it can happen to me….”
It only takes one unexpected event to derail a West Virginian’s plans to care for their family. Jenny is proud of her college education and she thought she had achieved middle-class financial security. Now Jenny understands that a single stroke of misfortune can wipe out a family’s peace of mind - of knowing they can afford to go the doctor to take care of themselves so they can take care of their family.
Today, Jenny’s daughter is covered by the West Virginia Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). With her CHIP coverage, Jenny’s daughter was able to see the doctor for a serious ear infection. With CHIP, the trip to the doctors and prescription for the ear infection cost $15 - “which is a reasonable amount for a family” according to Jenny.
If Jenny had not had Medicaid, she would have gone without health insurance and health care during the three years she worked part-time so she could care for her mother and her daughter. The consequences would have been tragic. As Jenny states, without Medicaid, “I would have been dead.”
Jenny from Barboursville, wants everyone to understand one important thing - Medicaid Matters.
West Virginians Together for Medicaid thanks Jenny for standing up for Medicaid by sharing her personal story. If you are interested in sharing your Medicaid or CHIP story, reach out to us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/WVTFM/) or Twitter @WVTFMedicaid by sending us a message or give our Story Collection Coordinator, Lara Foster, a call 304-702-6708. Your story can help more West Virginians understand how important Medicaid is to our state’s families.