Mamas on Bedrest: Mamas With No Money and No Insurance

January 23rd, 2013

I live in Texas, not by choice but by circumstance.

As such I watch, with utter disgust, the Texas legislature cut and defund programs that have significant impact on women and children. The mantra here in “The Great State of Texas” is that “We pull ourselves up by our own boot straps and we take care of our own.” The sad truth is that those who can afford boots may in fact be able to pull themselves up by the straps, but for many hardworking Texans, it’s a struggle to make it from day to day and Texas is not doing a very good job of “taking care of its own.”

What many hardworking Texans don’t know is that with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, (ACA) there are federal funds available for each state to utilize so that they can increase the number of citizens who have access to health care. The funds typically go to support Medicare and Medicaid programs. Texas Governor Rick Perry is on the record as vehemently opposing the ACA and has vowed not to accept any federal funds. By rejecting these funds, Governor Perry ensures that some 6.1 million Texans remain uninsured.

Now I am in favor of everyone having his or her own opinion about government and the law. However, I think that when you are in a position of authority and you are making decisions for the general population, you need to step back from your personal views and look at what will be in the best interest of the greater population. Governor Perry and many Republicans vehemently oppose the ACA. However, it is the law and as such, there are provisions within the law that actually benefit a lot of people. In particular, the fact that the federal government has set aside funds so that the individual states can access these funds and use them to insure and care for their constituents is a good thing. Stubbornly denying the funds because you, a wealthy and well insured government official, have a philosophical difference with the government (okay, let’s be frank, the President!), and will as a result deny help to millions of your constituents is deplorable.

So why am I bringing this up on Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond? Because here in Texas, we have a large number of mamas who are either under-insured (their policies don’t cover maternity care) or they are uninsured. Texas also has some of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the United States and these rates are even higher for mamas of color. Women should not have to decide between keeping a roof over their heads and whether or not to start a family. The two should not be mutually exclusive. Mamas (and any children that they may have) need health care coverage and Texas Medicaid is struggling. Federal funds could go far in assuring that many hardworking Texans have access to safe, quality health care. A common misconception is that people on Medicaid are slackers, sitting about waiting for a handout. While this may in fact be true of some of the people receiving Medicaid benefits, there are just as many hard working people working low paying jobs that don’t provide (health care) benefits. These folks deserve to have access to quality health care.

But there are some really great folks out there working to ensure that all Texans, but mamas and babies in particular, have access to quality health care. In a bold move, Mamas of Color Rising has started MamaSana, an all volunteer free pregnancy clinic here in Austin. Mamas of Color Rising has also been instrumental in challenging the Texas Medicaid system to do more to support low income/mamas of color; petitioning the Texas Medicaid system to change it’s rules so that Licensed Professional Midwives will be able to attend births for low income/mamas of color and be reimbursed by TX Medicare, they have advocated for mother friendly birth practices for low income women and they have created a movement to ensure that all women have access to the best possible perinatal care, provided by caring health care providers and are aggressively pressing the Texas legislature to support their efforts. You can learn more about Mamas of Color Rising’s work here.

Here in Texas we are going to have to be vigilant and vocal when it comes to health care. We residents, constituents, have to continually press the legislature and the Governor to do the work of the people-and to work for the people. No matter what he may think of the Affordable Care Act or President Obama, Texans need a strong Medicaid program- many mamas and babies depend on it. And it is an ill conceived plan to refuse federal funds based a stubborn, prideful, philosophical difference-which in the end will have no effect on you or the quality of your life, but will greatly impact the lives of millions of others.

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