Health care for all: Marta Concepcion’s story

Marta Concepcion - Down Home North Carolina

Marta Concepcion

Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced that it will allow states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients for the first time in history. This is outrageous. I have many concerns with this new Medicaid mandate, especially because of the impact it will have on poor and working people like me. I am someone who has worked all her life. In that time, I have had good jobs and not-so-good jobs, but I always believed that if you worked hard you could get anywhere.

In the last four years, I have become disabled due to medical conditions and illness. There is not a day when I don’t wish I was able to work like I used to. Not only do I take pride in working for my community, but it is really hard to make ends meet on a fixed income. I don’t know how I would survive without Medicaid. It has saved my life many times, and I know thousands of people have stories like mine. We should be expanding these services and resources, not cutting them or making them harder to access. Any obstacle for people to get the help that they need will have serious consequences, especially for people who need healthcare the most.

Honest pay for honest work is something we all agree with, but that’s not what work requirements for Medicaid are. While it may sound fair that people should work to get Medicaid, it’s really not fair at all. Healthcare should always be a human right, and no one should ever be denied that right. Disabled, poor, and unemployed people deserve to survive, and thrive! Many of us have spent most of our lives working hard and paying into Medicaid. This program is ours, so how can they take it away?

I used to believe that people needed to do better, but now I’ve learned that sometimes people start with disadvantages that make it harder for them to pull themselves by their bootstraps. For many, it’s already difficult already to find work, but to lose life-saving healthcare on top of that makes the whole thing feel like a trap. For example:

  1. People with previous criminal histories have a very difficult time finding employment, and deal with all kinds of discrimination.
  2. Some people have no education and have not been able to complete school, so getting a good job is very difficult.
  3. Some employers do not provide health insurance to employees, and they cannot afford it on their own.
  4. Many people who do work only get paid poverty wages. In North Carolina the minimum wage is $7.25/hour and $2.13 for tipped employees (and we know that bosses often steal from employees and get away with it because we have no unions or strong labor laws). Even working full time, how can people afford to buy health insurance on those wages?
  5. Disabled people are unable to work.
  6. Mental health clients are often unable to work.

A lot of people like me, who already have a difficult time surviving, will have an even harder time if they make it harder to get Medicaid. We live in the richest country in the world. We can and must expand Medicaid, not make it harder for poor and working people to survive!