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This month's moving "Thankful Thursday" stories remind us all about the importance of protecting health care coverage for vulnerable young Texans. On Thanksgiving Day, we give thanks to all those who work so hard to protect Medicaid, CHIP, and the Affordable Care Act. We also give thanks for the programs themselves that allow millions of Texas children to get the health care they need to grow and thrive -- something for which parents - and all those who love and care for children - are grateful.
Happy Thanksgiving! www.kidswelltexas.org
This week's "Thankful Thursday" story is from husband and father of three, Clay Boatright. In a letter stating his profound appreciation for the life-saving support that Medicaid provides, he writes that he and his wife came very close to losing their family over the physical, financial, and exasperating emotional strain that can occur when caring for loved ones with severe disabilities.
"We were driving home and the atmosphere in the car was so thick you could cut it with a knife. My wife and I had finally come to a conclusion we had wanted to avoid, that we were no longer able to care for our own children.
At the time, our 11 year old daughter was a typically developing pre-teen involved in traditional kid activities. Our challenge, however, was our 8 year old identical twins who both have severe intellectual disabilities and autism. Unable to speak or use the bathroom, prone to meltdowns and hurting those around them, the daily care for our twins had reached a point that we could no longer handle it.
Though they were in school during the day and my wife was at home in the afternoons, the frustrations, arguments, financial and emotional stress on our family had become overwhelming.
While our children sat on decades-long waiting lists for help, and with no other options available, I started making phone calls in search of a place that would take our twins. Through that process I learned about funds available to provide respite support for children like ours. We applied, were accepted, and those funds provided the support we needed until our girls became eligible for help through one of Texas' Medicaid-waiver programs.
Their current Medicaid-waiver program is literally the glue which holds our family together. Every time one of their attendants comes through our front door we are thankful, not only for them, but for the program which enables them. We have no family or friends nearby who can help, and we could not afford this support on my income. Most important, my wife and I are thankful for our family and the opportunity for our children to be raised by the parents who love them most."
This powerful story touches the hearts and minds of parents everywhere struggling to find the strength and the resources to be able to provide adequately for their children despite overwhelming obstacles. Medicaid provides not only life-saving support to disabled children and adults, but also saves families from the emotional anguish of being torn apart by having to make very difficult decisions. Thankfully, Medicaid enables families to stay together and to remain stable, uplifted, productive and positive forces in our communities.
Unfortunately, Medicaid is under attack right now in the halls of Congress. With a Thanksgiving deadline, proposals put forth by the supercommittee stand to cut the program by tens of billions of dollars, with an impact of devastating proportions on families like the Boatrights and so many others.
The McCuistions know the value of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the difference it can make for a Texas family, particularly during these tough economic times. Vicki and her husband work around the clock between their small business and Vicki's 40+ hours a week at two local nonprofits. Each of their three daughters has big dreams and is already embracing their parents' hard work ethic: they make straight A’s, run cross-country, work at their local church, and do mission work during summers.
When Vicki's employer offered her a bonus to cover her monthly health insurance premium, it bumped the family's income above the qualifying limit for the children's CHIP coverage. Unfortunately, Vicki's insurance did not cover dependents and the girls were left uninsured for parts of 2011.
It caused the McCuistions significant stress to learn that their efforts to bring home a little extra pay during these hard times put them $68 over the monthly limit for CHIP. While the girls were uninsured they missed needed doctor visits because they could not afford the costly out of pocket expenses. The girls were also unable to participate in the kinds of school activities they enjoyed, and others took for granted.
“I had to ask my company to withdraw the $75 a month allowance they gave me to cover my own health insurance. This put our income back down below the limit.” Eventhough Vicki lost coverage for herself, the family was able to requalify for the children.
Vicki recently wrote a letter to her elected officials in which she urged them to protect vital safety-net programs for kids like CHIP and Medicaid. “You have not had to tell your child, no, you cannot follow your dreams, because we can’t afford for you to get hurt.” She has also urged her representatives to make balanced budget decisions that keep children a priority. She hopes others will do the same.
The McCuistions are not alone. Medicaid and CHIP make it possible for children all over the state to see a doctor when they need to. Parents face tough decisions everyday on how to best provide for their children's wellbeing and ongoing needs, but many families are grateful every day to not have to worry about their children's health care.
Thankfully, in another year or so when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, parents will no longer be faced with the difficult decision of having to choose between covering themselves or their children. There will be a range of affordable options available through the Exchange. During the month of November, we are reminded how thankful we are for the peace of mind that CHIP, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act provide to families everywhere.
Join parents and other moms like Vicki to let your voice be heard in the halls of Congress. Share this page on your Facebook and tell your friends about what's at stake for millions of kids in the current budget deliberations.
Engage with CDF-Texas on Facebook and with our partners through the statewide KidsWell Texas campaign. Follow @TXWellHealthy and @CDFTexas on Twitter for these stories and more using hashtag #30daythanks and join the ongoing conversation for kids health.
Not every child has a guardian angel, but for eight year old Destiny, Houston-based Univision executive Debbie Donner comes pretty close.
Debbie and her husband have been fortunate to be able to provide for their own two children. One is an undergraduate, and the other completing advanced doctoral studies, both at excellent universities. Debbie recently contacted CDF-Texas with concern about another child, not her own, in desperate need of health care.
She writes, “Her name is Destiny and she's a beautiful, bright, eight-year-old girl who is in the gifted and talented program in school. She is always happy and wherever I take her she brings smiles to people’s faces. She is a ray of sunshine."
Destiny's primary caretaker is her grandmother who is close to 70 and lives on a very limited income.
"I have become her second family, stepping in to provide and enrich her childhood with things that her grandmother cannot afford. I have been helping them get connected to resources and navigate systems to give Destiny the best chance at success.”
Debbie explains that Destiny has asthma and eczema and relies on Medicaid to get the healthcare she needs. A few weeks ago when Debbie picked Destiny up for a regular outing, she noticed the little girl was in pain and having difficulty breathing.
Tragically, a simple error in her paperwork caused Destiny to be dropped from Medicaid and Debbie wrote that they “have been truly experiencing the stress of what it feels like to not have health coverage in place to provide Destiny with the care she needs.” CDF-Texas was able to help get Destiny’s coverage restored and now, thanks to Medicaid, she's been able to see a regular pediatrician and avoid using the ER.
The health of our children is a key ingredient to keeping Texas strong for generations to come. In order to ensure that children like Destiny can see a doctor when they get sick, the Congressional "super committee" must act to protect Medicaid before their Thanksgiving deadline.
Debbie pleads, “If Medicaid is important to you, please call Congressman Jeb Hensarling and let him know how you feel. Tell him Medicaid matters to you. My story is about 1 child. There are 3 million Texas children who's livelihoods depend on the lifesaving healthcare provided by Medicaid and CHIP.”
For kids' sake and the sake of our shared long-term economic strength and prosperity, join parents and other guardians like Debbie and let your voice be heard!
Send Congress a message to make children a priority in the budget battles ahead. And be sure to sign up to receive emails from KidsWell Texas, the statewide campaign to make sure Texas kids can see a doctor when they need to.
Step by step, CDF-Texas works to improve the lives of children in Texas. Creating a level playing field for Texas children is a mission that we cannot accomplish alone. It is only with the support of dedicated individuals like you that we are able raise our collective voices to move our state and nation in a direction that puts children first and provides each child the opportunity to be a child.
With a collective voice, followed by strategic action, we do not just make small changes. We change entire communities, our state, and our nation.
The following resources have been compiled to enable you to join us in providing a better, stronger, louder voice for America's children and our future.
Learn about CDF's six priorities that America CAN solve to ensure the future of every child.
Taking action online is a quick and easy way to let your elected officials know you demand they commit to helping children in order to earn your vote. See how you can step up and take action with a click of the mouse right now.
Creating a level playing field for all children is a mission we cannot accomplish alone. See a list of other organizations working to improve the lives of children.
CDF works closely with national religious leaders, state and local congregations, and lay people. People of faith are indispensable to building a successful Leave No Child Behind® movement. Join others in faithful action in building CDF's movement for children.
There are lots of ways you can step up and take action to improve the lives of children. Some take just a few seconds and others a bit longer. Learn more about child advocacy actions that work.
The CDF Action Council is an affiliated 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization of the Children's Defense Fund. Learn about the CDF Action Council and resources including the CDF Action Council® Nonpartisan Congressional Scorecard.