Friday, April 11, 2008
Ashley has Medicaid health insurance. Medicaid is the United States health program for individuals and families with low incomes and resources. It is an entitlement program that is jointly funded by the states and federal government, and is managed individually by each state. Among the groups of people served by Medicaid are eligible low-income parents, children, seniors, and people with disabilities. More often than not when a health professional hears the word ‘Medicaid’, the assumption is made that the insured is low income. However, people with disabilities can and often do have Medicaid insurance even if their families are not considered low-income.
Ashley has Medicaid insurance because I adopted her from the foster care system and because she has disabilities. Medicaid has been a lifesaver financially for my family. If I had to rely solely on my health insurance (through my employer) for meeting Ashley’s medical bills, we would have reached her lifetime maximum several years ago. So, I am very happy that she had Medicaid. What I’m not happy about is how some medical professionals treat us when they learn that Ashley has Medicaid.
Many years ago, when Ashley was in the hospital for her G-tube surgery, I heard the nurses at the nursing station whispering the words ‘Medicaid baby’. At that time I wasn’t sure what they were talking about. As soon as Ashley returned from surgery and was put in the smallest room on the hospital floor, and then another child was also put into the room (the room was small for single occupancy, and impossible for double occupancy), I realized what they were talking about.
Medicaid is not a money-making enterprise for a hospital. Medicaid payment rates are probably the lowest of any insurance program. That’s one of the reasons my friend, Lynnette, has problems finding and retaining nurses for her daughter, Brooke. Nurses can earn more money working for any other insurance program. And, I believe it is the reason that hospitals and other medical providers do not give the same attention and service to people with Medicaid as they do to people with private insurance.
Going back to Ashley’s time in the hospital for G-tube surgery, once I realized what was happening, I became very irate. I stormed into the hospital administrator’s office and demanded that we resolve the issue of the tiny, cramped room right then and there, or I would be happy to resolve it in the press. Not an hour later, Ashley had been moved into a private room three times the size of the one she had been in. But it should not have taken such action on my part for Ashley to be treated fairly by the hospital.
I could list several other examples of Medicaid discrimination, and one of the things that has always bothered me is that many people with Medicaid may not have gone to the lengths I did to put a halt to the discrimination. How many people – parents, children, the elderly and the disabled – are discriminated against every day because of the type of insurance they have? How many of those people even know they are being discriminated against? Is there any way to stop these practices?