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Guest column: Health care plan may ease fears

Post Register - 1/23/2018

For our family of seven, any illness or injury is a choice between a $100 doctor visit or buying groceries, writes Jessica Rachels.

My family has been unable to afford health coverage for years. Our income is too low to qualify for tax credits to buy a plan on the healthcare exchange and we don't qualify to the state's Medicaid program. Despite many opportunities to do so, our state's legislators have refused to fix this problem and help families like mine get health insurance. But there is a new, exciting opportunity for legislators to do the right thing during the 2018 session. Idaho families like mine cannot wait any longer for action.

By passing the governor's Idaho Health Care Plan, legislators can make sure Idaho families who live day to day in fear of a medical emergency get the health coverage and peace of mind they need to protect themselves. My question is, will legislators finally do what's right for the people of Idaho?

The Idaho Health Care Plan aims to improve access to health coverage while bringing down insurance costs for Idahoans who buy a health plan on the state health exchange. It would change the rules so that Idahoans in the coverage gap with some level of income would be eligible for a tax credit like others are now. Approximately 35,000 Idahoans including my family could qualify for these tax credits. It also plans to move some Idahoans with high cost complex medical conditions onto Medicaid, which could end up lowering premiums for everyone who buys exchange plans.

My husband owns his own small business. I care full time for my four children, including my disabled daughter, Natalie, and my father, a disabled veteran, who also lives with us. When you live without health coverage you are constantly questioning if your health conditions are serious enough to warrant a doctor's visit. For our family of seven, this is a choice between a $100 doctor visit or buying groceries. Lifting Natalie in and out of her wheelchair has taken a physical toll on me as well. I experience excruciating pain daily from a foot injury that needs surgery I can't afford. I live in fear, praying that a medical emergency doesn't spiral us into financial crisis or leave me unable to care for my family. If I can't care for my children, I am afraid that Natalie may be forced to live in an institution away from us.

My story is similar to others who care for loved ones with a disability without the security that comes with health coverage. If our health care needs are not met, family members may eventually require expensive institutional placement. I am urging the Idaho legislature to not let another session pass without helping those of us in the health coverage gap. The time is now.

To learn more about the plan, and show your support, join other Idahoans at an informational session with Idaho legislators on January 24 from 9:00 A.M. to 11:00 A.M. at the Idaho State Capitol in the Lincoln Auditorium.


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