For Immediate Release: July 31, 2020
Martinsville, Va. – Yesterday, leaders from the Danville and Martinsville/Henry County Chapter of Virginia Organizing hosted a virtual roundtable to celebrate the 55th anniversary of Medicaid and Medicare. Speakers, including local health care providers and patients, highlighted the importance of these programs and the inadequacy of the Senate Republicans’ recent COVID-19 relief proposal. Click here to watch a recording of the roundtable.
Despite Medicaid’s proven value as a health care program and economic stimulus to local communities, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s COVID-19 proposal does not provide a single additional dollar to the longstanding public program.
Matt Bailey, a nurse practitioner in Danville, shared how Medicaid provided his family coverage while he pursued medical training.
“Thanks to Medicaid expansion, we were able to quality for Medicaid coverage,” said Bailey. “It was really fortunate because my wife got really sick that year and had to be hospitalized for a couple of weeks…If we had not had health insurance, it would have been astronomical. I can’t imagine how much it would have cost.”
For Bailey, the pandemic has brought the need for change front and center.
“It’s continually getting worse. [Decision makers in Washington] are intentionally ignoring their constituents and their needs to satisfy those who are lining their pockets…It is so heartbreaking to see politicians and lawmakers have such a hard heart toward what everyday Americans are going through.”
The Senate Republicans’ COVID-19 relief proposal does not include any funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, or state and local governments. Virginia Organizing and 140 public officials highlighted these priorities in a letter sent to Virginia’s congressional delegation.
Dr. Makunda Abdul-Mbacke arrived partway through the roundtable, but she had a good reason.”I was a little late to the party because I was just delivering a healthy baby boy,” said Abdul-Mbacke of Martinsville. “The mother was a recipient of Medicaid and most likely he will be a recipient of Medicaid also. Especially in rural American, in rural Virginia, Medicaid is a lifesaver. Without Medicaid, people would delay care, possibly not get any care for pregnancy, and then just go into labor without the health that they need.
“Everyone who needs health care right now should get health care…We should have more testing. We should have more availability of treatment, just more availability of care.”
Urgency for federal action on relief and recovery has been building over the past month as more than 900,000 filed unemployment claims by early July. Without substantial federal assistance, Virginia could lose up to 135,100 jobs by 2021, plunging more families into hardship and slowing economic recovery.
Gerie Fatundimu, a resident of Martinsville, said her own health experience shows why the country must take immediate action to address such a serious problem. Fourteen years ago, she was working full-time without health benefits. After a year and a half of symptoms and concern, she was finally able to get health insurance. Soon after, Fatundimu was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. She survived, but some of the other patients she met in treatment died due to a lack of adequate care. While celebrating the anniversary of Medicaid and Medicare, Fatundimu noted that the federal government must take action now to address the current crisis.
“We are working towards Congress passing a stronger response to COVID-19,” said Fatundimu. “This is a pandemic. Why aren’t they responding accordingly?”
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