Earlier this week, the House Finance Committee passed House Bill 3136, which would require Medicaid recipients in West Virginia to work at least 20 hours per week. There are many bills that come up throughout the session that generate outrage from me and others. These bills sometimes harm people I care about, but this one is personal for me.
I’m 26 years old. I had great support from my two parents, a mother who was a nurse and a father who reported for The Charleston Gazette for many years. Their support throughout my life and a tolerable amount of student debt allowed me to pursue my dream of working in baseball over the past few years, even though the pay has been meager. Until last year, I was very healthy.
Unfortunately, last year, I developed a chronic condition called ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that attacks the lining of the large intestine. It has no known cause or cure. I won’t go into details — you can Google the symptoms. But it degraded over multiple months to the point where frequent trips to the bathroom were disrupting my ability to focus and work. Eating was a minefield, with certain foods and drink causing major inflammation and few “safe” foods. My ability to sleep was affected. Over two months, I lost more than 15 pounds.
This entire time, as I suffered on a daily basis, I had a good idea of my condition from matching up my many symptoms with the WebMD description. Unfortunately, having a very good idea of what you have doesn’t substitute for a diagnosis, which requires an expensive colonoscopy — not an easy option for someone making $9 per hour.
After the baseball season ended, I had a couple of options: I could seek employment to meet my short-term financial needs or I could continue being unemployed until I received Medicaid coverage. Knowing I couldn’t possibly work effectively while still battling this condition, the latter option was an easy choice. The unfortunate reality is that we have a health care system so unethical that it forces some to make that choice.
I did qualify for Medicaid. I was able to see a doctor, get my diagnosis and receive treatment. The symptoms have subsided considerably, and I’m working full-time. If this bill were in place, I would not have qualified for Medicaid. I don’t know what I would’ve done. And I worry what others who have a condition much more serious and severe would do in a similar situation.
I’m proud to say I benefited from Medicaid. It gave me the care I needed and helped limit my suffering, so I could focus on and pursue the things I care about each day.
We cannot solve our nation’s health care problems through the West Virginia Legislature, but we can make sure we don’t take away care from those who need it most. This state is full of the most compassionate and caring people I know. This is not who we are. Stop this cruel and unnecessary bill.