By DAWN WILKSTEN, Cataldo, ID
I live in Cataldo, a rural town in beautiful Kootenai County, where I am raising my 14-year-old grandson alone.
Throughout my life, I’ve been a business owner, scout leader, and active volunteer in our local schools and community. Being 60 years old, I am not quite at retirement age and don’t yet receive Medicare. Because I make too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid, and too little to afford insurance through the state exchange, I fall into the health coverage gap.
There are a limited number of jobs that offer health benefits in the rural Idaho community where I live. I work odd jobs throughout the year to make ends meet. I know from experience that it is very hard for older adults to find jobs when they are dealing with untreated medical conditions that limit their ability to meet many employment requirements.
I have needed a hip replacement and treatment for arthritis for years now. It has gotten to the point where I can no longer stand for more than two minutes without excruciating pain. This makes it impossible to be independent, work full-time, or volunteer in the community.
My story is not an uncommon one. Seniors throughout rural Idaho experience the same challenges. Since we are not yet at the age where we qualify for Medicare, we go without health insurance and needlessly suffer from both chronic and acute health conditions. This deeply affects our quality of life, health, and financial security.
Seniors are some of the most active members and volunteers in our communities. But when health conditions go untreated, our ability to give back to our community is limited.
Fortunately, on November 6th, voters will have the chance to close the coverage gap and expand Medicaid by voting yes on Proposition 2. Closing the gap would allow 17,000 seniors to access treatment for chronic pain from arthritis and other conditions and receive care for cancer, osteoporosis, and respiratory conditions.
Most of us know and care for aging family members and understand how important good healthcare is to their quality of life.
Voting yes on Proposition 2 is also good for local communities because it will reduce the cost of uncompensated care we all pay for with our tax dollars and bring $400 million in funds back to Idaho— right now that money is being spent to fund healthcare in other states. Expanding Medicaid will ensure our rural hospitals can stay open and help working families be healthier and more productive.
Seniors in Idaho have the wisdom that comes with life experience. When we are healthy and active, we are able to be incredible leaders and teachers. Our communities would be stronger, more engaged, and healthier if everyone could afford needed healthcare.
Supporting Proposition 2 is the right thing to do because expanding Medicaid will enhance the health of our children and grandchildren, our families, and our seniors. ISI