Roshaunda Jones was standing in line at the bank a few weeks ago, trying to ignore what she was hearing.

“These people, they don’t want to work. They’re lazy,” loudly declared one of the older women in front of Jones.

“They’ve always got their hand out. They have all these babies and then they want to government to do everything for them,” agreed the second woman in disgust.

That did it.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” said Jones, a 38-year-old single Houston mother of three. “I’m one of those people who gets some of that assistance you’re talking about. I work, sometimes seven days a week, and I pay taxes. My son uses Medicaid because he has an illness.”

The women immediately muttered embarrassed apologies.

“Don’t be sorry,” Jones told them. “Just choose your words carefully because you never know people’s situations.”

In Texas, the face of Medicaid might not be what you think.

Of the roughly 4 million Texans who currently receive Medicaid, 70 percent are children from low-income families who rely on the program for routine medical care. The remainder are nearly all pregnant women who are dropped two months after giving birth; the elderly poor, including those with serious conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease who have exhausted their savings and are in Medicaid nursing homes; and the disabled.

The fate of many Medicaid recipients in Texas and across the nation is now in the hands of the U.S. Senate as lawmakers attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with their version of health care reform. In this bitterly politicized debate, the two sides throw out numbers but often the people behind those numbers remain unheard.

In Texas, about 160,000 children and young adults who have profound disabilities. It is those Medicaid recipients who are often seen as the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, said Adriana Kohler, senior health policy associate for Texans Care for Children, a child advocacy group.

They are medically fragile children whose parents say would not be alive today but for the complex surgeries, the specialized therapies and equipment, and the day-to-day care paid for by Medicaid.

Some are poor, but others dwell in the culs-de-sac of middle class whose parents may have traditional insurance but their policies do not or will not cover all of the ancillary support and programs their disabled children need.

Love not always enough

“There are all of these things we need to help him in life,” Jones says of her 17-year-old son, Rashad, who was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia as a baby. “I need help. I can love him, but I can’t do it all.”

Every four weeks, the slightly-built teenager with shoulder skimming dreadlocks and oversized horn-rim glasses goes to Texas Children’s Hospital for a blood transfusion. He has had them since he was 2.

“They take my old blood out and put new blood in,” he explains. He does not remember any other life.


Published By: Houston Chronicle

Author: Jenny Deam

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