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Over 2 million Americans like me are stuck without health care because 12 GOP-ruled states keep refusing to expand Medicaid.
By Anthony Cook | September 14, 2022

I have terrible chronic pain that’s left me unable to work for the last few years. I can’t sleep well, and every day is a battle just to take care of myself.

It would be life-changing if I could be seen by a doctor. But I’m one of the 2 million Americans caught in what’s called the Medicaid coverage gap: we’re people in a no man’s land who can’t afford health insurance on their own, but aren’t eligible for their state or federal health insurance programs.

I’ve worked hard for decades and saved for my retirement, but I currently don’t have enough income to get covered through an Affordable Care Act marketplace plan. I also don’t qualify for the Medicaid program in my state of Texas, since it doesn’t offer any health insurance options to adults like me who aren’t yet 65 years old, aren’t pregnant or caretakers of young children, and don’t meet the state’s very narrow definition of disability.

I try my best not to be a burden to those around me, but even something as simple as getting up to answer the phone is difficult. I struggle to use my hands since my fingers have become crooked in the past year due to arthritis that I can’t afford to see a doctor about. I also need care for my bad hip, knee, and shoulder.

But I have no way to get health care that I can afford. Texas is my home, and home to over three-quarters of a million others stuck in the Medicaid coverage gap like me. Year after year, Texas has refused to expand Medicaid, leaving us with no options for affordable health coverage and care.

Instead, I’ve been trying my best to manage my pain with over-the-counter medicine like Tylenol and at-home remedies because those are all I can afford. Even for these, I’m quickly draining the money I’d saved for retirement.

I worry every day about what I’ll do when that money runs out — especially when the pain becomes unbearable and I have to make the difficult decision to go to the emergency room. Each time I go, I have to pay out-of-pocket. Those visits cost me at least $300, sometimes much more. With my savings running low, I know there will come a time when I won’t be able to afford this kind of last-resort option either.

When I’m discharged from the emergency room, the doctors send me home with referrals, urging me to see specialists so I can get the care and treatment my body needs. But I can’t —  those offices won’t even book an appointment with me until I have insurance.

If Texas expanded Medicaid, I’d be able to actually see those doctors who could help me get my body fixed — rather than just patching it up at the ER while I suffer through painful, fixable problems.

I want to be able to see a doctor. I want to feel relief from the pain that is getting worse every day. I want to be able to work. I want to be able to take care of myself and improve my quality of life.

Close the Medicaid coverage gap, in Texas and everywhere else.

Anthony CookAnthony Cook is a long-time resident of the Panhandle region of Texas and an advocate for closing the Medicaid coverage gap. This op-ed was distributed by

1 Comment

  1. John Rodgers on September 18, 2022 at 9:37 pm

    Texas Republicans gained control of the Texas legislature in 1994. That’s 28 years ago. Republicans do not believe tax-paying citizens deserve services so they make the law so narrow that citizens can not qualify for assistance. Texas Republicans are holding 11.4 billion for an emergency that may happen sometime in the future. The problem is this money is not helping the owners who are Texas citizens by sitting in an investment account as Texas citizens suffer. Texas Republicans do not take the Affordable Care Act dollars which is about 5 billion dollars annually so over 12 years that amount to 60 billion dollars Texas has not received. You are asking the federal government to close the Medicare Coverage gap but who is holding the Texas Republicans accountable for causing so much pain and suffering across the state when Republicans could make the laws so people would qualify for assistance who needs it.? Texas Republicans could take the ACA dollars but that would help poor people many are children. If Texans want relief then vote the Republicans out of office.

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