Changing Conversations on Health Care – #IamMedicaid (POY 42)

Changing Conversations on Health Care - #IAmMedicaid (POY 42)

Christy Cain and Evey Bell Owen started the #IamMedicaid campaign to protect public health care funds in Alabama. Now they’re taking it nationwide.

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About Alabama Children First and #IamMedicaid

When you picture someone who receives health care assistance through a government program, what kind of person comes to mind?

Someone living in a country with a robust national health care system will probably have a different answer than the average American. That’s because there’s a lot of cultural and even moral confusion about public health care here in the US. The rhetoric here in the States often fails to take compassion into account and can put millions of lives at risk.

Medicaid is something that’s mentioned in news and politics every day but what the program represents isn’t always made clear, so here’s a quick summary. Medicaid is a public health insurance program in the US. It’s based on federal laws that guarantee health coverage for some groups, mostly families earning lower incomes but also many who are elderly, those with disabilities, women who are pregnant, and children.

Medicaid is funded through a mix of federal and some state funds. Part of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, that we’ve heard so much about called for expanding funding for these programs, but the Supreme Court ruled that each state can decide whether or not to participate. Alabama is one of the states that’s chosen not to expand its Medicaid program this way.

Christy is the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization called Alabama Children First, which is based in Alabama’s state capital of Montgomery, and Evey is a communications consultant down the road in Mobile. Christy and Evey have worked together to advocate for children’s health policies for several years, mostly on efforts affecting Alabama’s Medicaid program.

They started the #IamMedicaid campaign to show Alabama legislators the faces of those who depend on Medicaid. They recruited health care providers to take photos of patients who received assistance from Medicaid, with each holding a piece of paper stating “I Am Medicaid”. Then they ask providers to share the photos on social media—with permission from the patients or their parents—using the hashtag #IamMedicaid. Anyone using social media can contribute.

The #IamMedicaid campaign shows the people who depend on Medicaid to live happier, healthier lives.
The #IamMedicaid campaign collects the stories and the faces of people who depend on Medicaid to live happier, healthier lives. (Photo)

Even though the idea was simple, it caught on pretty quickly across the state. Now it’s being adopted by advocates in other states. Christy and Evey also believe the campaign has played a part in the preservation of funds for Alabama’s Medicaid program.

Now what?

Homework for you

The next time you hear about the problems behind Medicaid or Obamacare or health care in general, think about Alabama Children First and the #IamMedicaid campaign. Christy and Evey probably put in some long hours in Montgomery and Mobile today, all because they want to reach those who could use some help.

Take a time out and visit IamMedicaid.com. Look through the photos and the stories on the site. Those are the living, breathing people who rely on Medicaid. Even better, tell your friends and family about it and maybe share the link on social media. Like Evey told me, health care isn’t a partisan issue—it’s a human issue—so let’s work on changing how we think and talk about it.

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