By Alissa Robbins
As Georgia Governor Nathan Deal currently considers signing into law a measure that would place further barriers between hundreds of thousands of low-income Georgians and quality, competent healthcare, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW is partnering with the Atlanta Chapter of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) this Mama’s Day to highlight the work of Mama-Activists in Georgia fighting to expand Medicaid eligibility and forever alter the healthcare destinies of the estimated 838,000 low-income uninsured women, 28.7% of whom are African-American, living in our state.
NDWA community organizing intern Zola Dadawele currently takes care of her 90-year old grandmother who is ineligible for Medicaid or Medicare under Georgia’s current eligibility requirements. Without health insurance, it is too costly to pay for the live-in nurse and the full-price prescriptions that her grandmother needs. So, the family must rely on the generosity of community support when Dadawele goes to work. Dadawele was prompted to join the fight for Medicaid expansion because she knew that she wasn’t alone in trying to provide for her loved ones.
“We don’t want to put her in a home, and we shouldn’t have to put her in a home,” she said.
According to Dadawele, there are NDWA members who qualify for Georgia’s strict Medicaid eligibility and are still unable to receive healthcare.
Leading up to the March 31st deadline, NDWA and SPARK hosted a clinic to sign people up for healthcare on the Federal Health Insurance Market Place on HealthCare.gov. The website told one NDWA member that she qualified for Medicaid and that local offices would be in touch with her. “That was two months ago,” Dadawele said and the member is now going without health coverage, paying out of pocket for expenses. Now that the deadline to receive coverage through healthcare.gov has expired, Dadawele said the member is uncertain of her options for care.
Mama-Activist Stephanie Barnett was able to successfully enroll in temporary Medicaid during her pregnancy, but still experienced barriers to her reproductive health care that could be resolved with Medicaid expansion.
Barnett wanted to begin using birth control after her pregnancy. She rushed to book an appointment with her doctor because her Medicaid coverage expired two months after birthing her child. At the visit, the doctor was unable to administer the requested IUD and would not be able to until after Barnett’s Medicaid expired. At $700, it was an expense she could not afford. “Money shouldn’t be a barrier to basic care,” says Barnett. She now fights to ensure that all families, regardless of income, have access to the contraceptives and reproductive health choices that they decide is best for them.
“That’s worth fighting for,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt [Georgia] to expand Medicaid.”
Evelyn Kummerow, an intern at NDWA working to recruit domestic workers to join the fight for Medicaid expansion, also joined the fight for healthcare after it impacted her personally. She did not know how she was going to cover her father’s medical bill of $50,000. He was visiting her from his home in Venezuela when he fell ill and had to be hospitalized for 15 days. Luckily, the tab was covered by the Venezuelan government and the family never received a bill. She compared that to her experience at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, GA where she was given a $700 bill for entering the emergency room even though she never received treatment.
“We have to change the model of care in this country,” she said. She wants to ensure that not only tourists, but everyone in the United States can always afford the care that they need.
Kummerow, Barnett, and Dadawele’s work with NDWA and SPARK have been invaluable. Together and along with partner organizations, they were able to collect 50,000 petition signatures to deliver to Governor Deal’s office, coordinate press conferences, sign people up for health insurance, and mobilize residents to lobby at the capitol.
All three women also said they are fighting to ensure that more mamas and their families receive the full promise of the Affordable Care Act. Below are some of the benefits that low-income women could receive this Mother’s Day if Governor Deal were to opt-in to expansion.
Pregnant parents who are insured now have more of the maternity care they need. Under the Affordable Care Act, about 8.7 million women will have guaranteed access to maternity care including breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling.Insurance companies can no longer charge women a higher premium simply because of their gender. Insured women will have access to a large number of preventive services which will be completely covered by the insurance companies.
So, while we celebrate Mama’s today, let us also commit to supporting them year-round by providing healthcare. Join the fight for Medicaid expansion! Visit www.sparkrj.org and www.domesticworkers.org/atlanta to stay involved in their efforts.
Alissa Robbins is a 2014 intern at SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW
This piece was originally posted on the Strong Families Blog as a part of the Mamas Day 2014 blog series.