Last month, we completed a successful "Medicaid for Idaho" tour. With your support and encouragement, we refurbished our old camper into a “Medicaid Mobile” and we hit the road, making 20 stops from Bonners Ferry in the far north to Driggs in the southeast and back again.
Everywhere we went we called on the Idaho legislature to do something about the 78,000 Idahoans who fall in the “Medicaid gap”—who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford health insurance. We highlighted the fact that our elected representatives have done nothing to address this issue in spite of the fact that 70 percent of Idahoans want to see our government take action.
We made it on TV, public radio, and local newspapers all across the state. We rallied in Farmers Markets and on bandstands. We spoke to gathered crowds in cities, we knocked on doors in tiny towns, we swarmed parking lots with flyers and sign-up sheets in communities where, we were told, no one would sympathize with our message.
In every community we visited, we found overwhelming support for the expansion of Medicaid. Even in rural parts of the state, in small towns like Emmett and Shoshone, we were approached by people eager to tell us of their struggles with Idaho's health care system and offer their support. It was an exhilarating experience to learn that we are not alone; that people all across the state share our commitment to affordable healthcare for all.
Thank you so much to all who gave your time, talent, and treasure to this effort, and to all who were brave enough to share your personal stories and speak up for the principle of affordable healthcare. Today, as we begin strategizing for the next phase, we need your help once again. Between now and next Friday, we will collect and compile as many personal healthcare stories as we can find. If you, a friend, or a family member have struggled with exorbitant healthcare costs--if, for example, you make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford quality healthcare--please share your story with us by sending an email to email@example.com with the subject line "My Healthcare Story."
Even if your story is just a few sentences, please share! If you can write an entire paragraph or two--and even attach a photo--that would be even better. Please be sure to include your home town, age, and occupation. Once we've compiled your stories, we will begin a statewide storytelling campaign. We will work to make your voices heard on social media and in local newspapers in every corner of the state.
Out on the road, we heard countless stories of pain and economic insecurity, and we were endlessly inspired by the resilience that so many Idahoans have maintained in the face of despair. To give just one example, in Blackfoot we met a woman named Cherryl who had been diagnosed with a chronic heart condition and found herself unable to afford medication. In spite of her low income, she did not qualify for Medicaid because her husband’s meager retirement income places her family above the income limit.
When Cherryl spoke with a legal-aid assistant, she was told that she had three options. First, she could move to a different state with more generous healthcare policies. Given that her entire family lived in Idaho, this was out of the question. Second, she could contact her elected officials and demand that they reform the laws. She called and called, with zero success. There was a third and final option: She could get a divorce. This would separate her husband’s income from her own, and render her eligible for Medicaid. As Cherryl told us about this option, she broke into tears. We did too. Tragically, she later told us that she plans to divorce the man she has loved for 28 years.
We believe that if the voters of this state hear stories like Cherryl’s, they will demand change. That’s why we’re gathering all of the stories we can find.
And this will only be the beginning, so stay tuned. We have big plans for the coming season, and within the coming month we will provide an update regarding our long-term goals.
During our tour, we met so many inspiring individuals who were not only eager to share their story, but were also excited to join this movement. One example in particular comes to mind: a 91-year-old Bonners Ferry resident named Faye Morris. Faye was born in 1926. She came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War, and she lived to see the United States build the strongest middle class the world has ever known. She told us that she is joining our movement because when she looks at babies being born today, she is fearful about what this country will be like if those babies live to be 91.
Here's the remarkable thing: Faye didn't just show up to our picnic. She joined us after the event and knocked on doors with us. At that moment we couldn't help but think: If 91-year-old Faye Morris is willing to join this fight for affordable healthcare, there must be thousands more who will follow her lead.
We cannot do this alone. But if we join together as a statewide movement from the Panhandle to Teton County, without regard for political party or ideology, we will change the conversation in this state. If we all do our part, we can make sure that every candidate running for office in 2018 is compelled to answer a simple question: Should quality, affordable healthcare be available to all Idahoans, or should it remain a special privilege for the well-to-do?
Please share your story with us. If you are able to make a financial contribution to this campaign, please donate here. Every little bit will help. Forward this newsletter to friends and family members. Most importantly, keep believing that change is possible when we organize around the values that unite us.
Luke, Garrett, Emily, and the Medicaid for Idaho Campaign