Guest Blog by Gabriella Garbero

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Having been a disabled Medicaid recipient for all of my adult life, I have seen firsthand how this program has allowed people with disabilities to live as independently as possible, in turn making society richer, more diverse, and an all-around better place to be. Medicaid has been critical in my life and the lives of people I care about because it has provided unparalleled coverage for many unique heath care needs, including home health services that allow us to live in the community, work, and go to school.

The effect that the Missouri Medicaid program has had on my life is truly immeasurable. I enrolled in Medicaid when I was eighteen and unsure how I would be able to live independently and go to college. I was immediately put on a waiver program that provided me with caregivers so I could live away from my parents and experience independent life for the first time. As I have gotten older, Medicaid has become even more valuable to my way of life. If I did not have it, I truly do not know where I would be, as being physically dependent on family members has become less possible over the years due to the ages of my parents and distance of my siblings. Medicaid has enabled and encouraged my independence in this way and so many others.

I began law school in the fall of 2018 and am pursuing a health law concentration. In my studies I have learned even more about Medicaid from different perspectives. Medicaid has widened the safety net for so many people who would otherwise be excluded from the health care market. In Missouri, a quarter of all people with disabilities and two-thirds of nursing home residents are covered by Medicaid. Now, with COVID-19 affecting virtually all of our lives, Medicaid has become an important protective tool for society because it covers the most vulnerable. Now, more than ever, we see that taking care of ourselves includes taking care of others who may not have the resources to do so themselves. Health care is and always has been a collective effort in which no one should be left out or overlooked, regardless of their level of need. Medicaid is an important entity for this purpose.

For those of us who are medically vulnerable, the stakes are always high, but are especially high right now due to the pandemic. Medicaid has always been a program that can bend and stretch in ways that allow for coverage of whoever is left out of the current health care market. That could be any of us at any point in life. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it should be that denying healthcare to individuals that need it can have catastrophic effects on us all. We need to support, strengthen, and increase access to Medicaid so that all Missourians have the quality, affordable healthcare that they and their families need to get and stay healthy.

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