I’m writing in response to Jeff Glendening’s May 8 commentary, “Another round of the Medicaid expansion song” (11A).
With Episcopal Community Services, a nonprofit that has been working to feed the hungry and fight poverty throughout the Kansas City area for 30 years, I meet members of our community every day who are working hard to improve their own lives under very challenging circumstances.
Most of these adults fall into the “coverage gap” under existing law: They are too poor to qualify for tax credits to purchase private insurance, and they do not fall into the narrow eligibility categories of existing Medicaid in Kansas and Missouri (poor children, pregnant women with low income, or severely disabled). Or, as Glendening describes them, “able-bodied, childless, working-age adults.” That phrase is used to suggest that those in the coverage gap are not hardworking citizens and are somehow less deserving than other vulnerable citizens.
We all deserve care, and we all benefit when our communities are healthy. In fact, many of these adults do have children and do have very serious health problems that directly interfere with their ability to work and our ability to serve them.
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ECS works to feed hungry people while also empowering the poor to move beyond the barriers of poverty with dignity through education and job training. But lack of access to primary health care often means that our community members who want to find employment are not healthy enough to do so.
One woman, a 29-year-old, was involved with our Culinary Cornerstones vocational training for work in food service. She dropped out of this program because of untreated serious mental health issues (likely schizophrenia). With the health coverage that would be available through Medicaid expansion, she could get the treatment needed to manage her illness, allowing her to complete job training as well as get and maintain a job.
Just as we at ECS believe food is a basic human right, we also believe health care is a human right. Expanding Medicaid is about empowering our fellow citizens to better care for themselves and their families — and is one more way we can work to end poverty and inequity here in our great city.
Beau Heyen, president & CEO, Episcopal Community Services