Medicaid buy-in works for working families

By Richard Ranger
This appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican on March 8, 2019

When my wife and I first got married, we didn’t have health insurance. We didn’t think we needed it. We were young and healthy. Plus, even though we both worked multiple jobs, none of our employers provided health coverage, so there wasn’t an obvious way to even get insurance.

All of that changed once we found out that we were expecting a baby.

We quickly realized that we could not afford the doctor bills. The cost of prenatal visits, prenatal vitamins and specialty care added up fast. We talked it over and decided to apply for Medicaid. Unfortunately for us — like so many other New Mexicans — we made slightly too much money to qualify for Medicaid, and we certainly couldn’t afford overwhelming costs of private insurance. The premiums, deductibles and prescription drug costs were just too much for our family to bear.

We had to make difficult decisions to get health coverage. We didn’t have any other options. It was clear that Medicaid was the coverage that made sense for our family because it covered all of the essential services we needed without saddling us with medical debt. Fortunately, a change in our financial situation allowed us to reapply and finally qualify for Medicaid.

Medicaid was a huge help. Doctors’ appointments were easy to make and we finally had access to quality, affordable health care. As a result, we are the proud parents of Isaak, our 6-year-old son who brings us joy every day. We are grateful that he is healthy and grateful that Medicaid helped make that happen.

As much as my family would like to pursue better economic opportunities, we worry that the high cost of health care will risk our family’s health and financial well-being. Unfortunately, in order to keep the health insurance we need, we’ve had to put off pursuing careers in our community. We aren’t being true to ourselves and working the way that we always talked about. And the only thing that’s holding us back is our need for health coverage. That’s not the way things should be.

Fortunately, there is an option to help families like ours: Medicaid buy-in. It’s a simple idea that would allow families who don’t currently qualify for Medicaid or Medicare and who can’t get subsidized insurance through the Affordable Care Act to pay reasonable monthly premiums for the quality, trusted coverage provided by Medicaid. My wife and I know how well Medicaid takes care of families. We have a strong son as proof. We would welcome the opportunity to work full time again to support our family and be able to pay for health care coverage we trust.

That’s why my whole family — even Isaak — has been speaking out at the New Mexico Legislature in support of the Medicaid Buy-in Act, House Bill 416. We know what Medicaid buy-in would mean to real New Mexico families who want to work and need access to health care. It would mean the chance to work hard, the chance to get ahead and the ability stay healthy. And that means a lot.

My wife and I have learned so much about the legislative process by volunteering with Strong Families New Mexico and speaking out on behalf of our family and those like us in our community. We’ve attended hearings, testified in committees and stayed late into the evening for important votes. I’m glad to say that the bill is moving forward in both the House and Senate. But I am also worried. We need representatives and senators to continue to support Medicaid buy-in and to pass it out of its final committees. With successful floor votes in the House and the Senate, we could send this bill to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has said she would sign it.

We want to be able to tell our son that the Legislature did the right thing and created Medicaid buy-in. New Mexico working families need a health care solution that works for them — the Medicaid buy-in.

Richard Ranger lives in Gallup.