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I’m a metastatic cancer survivor who knows the importance of access to health care. I’m also the Wyoming grassroots manager for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), where I work with cancer patients, survivors and their families to ensure our lawmakers make cancer a top priority. I’m gravely concerned about Senate File 144, which could pass the Legislature any day. This legislation would make it a requirement for people to work to be eligible for Medicaid.

Many cancer patients and survivors are physically unable to meet these work requirements and could lose access to timely, appropriate and lifesaving care and treatments. Cancer patients and survivors like myself often face intense fatigue, nausea, vomiting, lymphedema, headaches, infections and pain. When these symptoms hit, working isn’t an option. In fact, between 40 and 85 percent of cancer patients stop working and experience absences ranging from 45 days to six months.

I was unable to work during cancer treatment and was also on Medicaid. My chemotherapy infusions were so intense I was hospitalized for three to four days every month and extreme nausea and vomiting kept me home for weeks afterwards. My platelet count was so low that my oncologist ordered me not to leave bed without help because a fall could cause fatal hemorrhaging. Even after my chemotherapy ended, extreme fatigue and ongoing side effects prevented me from working, although I desperately wanted to return to the workforce. This is the reality for most people undergoing treatment: they want to work but are often physically unable to do so. It’s been almost 21 years since my initial diagnosis, but I still have side effects that sometimes prevent me from working.

Although Senate File 144 has an exemption that says people with doctor’s notes do not need to comply with this work requirement, the paperwork and complex administrative reporting requirements could be a hurdle. When I’m struggling with nausea, fatigue and pain from treatments, daily tasks are difficult. I can’t imagine adding this additional, unnecessary stress. I’m trained as an attorney and still find the administrative hoops established under this legislation daunting. Can you envision how difficult and overwhelming it would feel to someone who is not familiar with agency requirements and ill from receiving treatment for what may be a terminal illness?

If passed and signed into law, this legislation will deny low-income residents —many of whom are our friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers — access to primary, preventive and early detection services that could help prevent and detect cancer when it’s more treatable and less costly.

The proposed 6-month lockout or disenrollment from the program would make it difficult or impossible for a cancer patient or recent survivor to continue treatment or pay for their maintenance medication and other services, seriously jeopardizing their survival. The financial toll from this lock-out period would be devastating to many individuals and their families.

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For low-income Wyoming residents with no other access to health coverage, access to Medicaid could mean the difference between life or death. I’m so grateful that Medicaid gave me access to the treatments that saved my life, and I’m also grateful I wasn’t penalized for being too sick to work while I fought to survive.

Approximately 3,000 Wyoming residents will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Thousands more are currently in treatment. They need all the help and support they can get — not attempts to make it harder for them to survive.

If enacted, Medicaid work requirements could result in those with a history of cancer or other serious health conditions being unable to access the only affordable health care option to help them treat or manage their disease. ACS CAN knows that having access to health insurance is the number one factor in whether someone survives a cancer diagnosis. We oppose Medicaid work requirements and urge the House to reject this bill that could mean life or death for many people.

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Dawn Scott is a metastatic cancer survivor. She’s the Wyoming grassroots manager for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. She’s based in Cody.

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