This past weekend, organizers from the Alliance for a Just Society joined over 50 members of the Idaho Community Action Network at their annual meeting in Boise, Idaho. People traveled from all over the state to develop their 2012 issue agenda. They strategized around a number of issues including payday lending, immigrant rights, and foreclosures. They also began to create their plan to organize in defense of Medicaid.
Several members shared their stories of how critical Medicaid is to their lives and their communities. “Without the program, I would end up dying. I couldn’t afford the medications that I am taking. I live on a fixed income and pharmaceutical companies are too concerned with making money to subsidize this type of stuff,” said Retta Green, an ICAN member.
Retta was diagnosed with colon cancer in June, and it has since spread to her stomach. In early August, Retta went under surgery and was given prescriptions to control her illness. She has to take about 87 pills on a monthly basis – one of her medications costs $600 for just one pill! Medicare pays eighty percent of her prescriptions, but that leaves $120 for her to pay out of pocket for just that one medication. There is no way she could absorb that cost, not to mention the twenty percent she would have to pay for her remaining medicine, into her already limited budget.
This is where Medicaid comes in. “Medicaid truly is a lifesaver. I’m a senior dealing with a critical illness. There’s no way I can work for extra money to cover high medication prices. I look forward to working with ICAN to protect this important public program,” said Retta.
In addition, Retta also told us that “Medicaid is essential not only for me, but also critical for the well-being of my community and the State of Idaho.” She said that community members are uniting to defend Medicaid, because without it people would suffer. “Where I live, there are a lot of older people – they get social security, but if they cut Medicaid, they couldn’t handle the financial burden. It would be like a legal way to euthanize our communities.”
There were several other stories in the room similar to Retta’s. The atmosphere was one of clashing sentiments – of distress, but with a sense of hope and energy to fight in defense of Medicaid. ICAN members will continue organizing to defend the program, and to find ways that will help them successfully implement the health care reform law in Idaho.