Fighting for health

Every morning, Bowling Green mother Susana Giudo wakes up and thinks of her two autistic children. She fears for the future. She wonders how they would get the therapy they need without health coverage.

“It affects my nerves,” Giudo said, with tears filling her eyes as she leaned up against her CVS grocery cart and sorted through a large binder of coupons. “I can never be calm [and think] everything is going to be OK because we never know when something is going to happen.”

With recent health care reform legislation proposed in the Senate that threatens the Affordable Care Act, Giudo is one parent who said she fears for the security of her health coverage every morning.

Her seven-year-old autistic twins, Edward and Erick, require speech and occupational therapy at The Kid SpOt Center in Bowling Green. She also has a a 16-year-old son, Abraham Jr and a 22-year-old daughter, Melissa, with a newborn that she helps care for.

She said she saves all of her receipts and bills to show the expenses that cannot be covered with only one source of income. Giudo is a stay-at-home mom so she can take care of her two boys, who require special assistance.

Her husband works overtime to make up for the disparities in coverage. And with the uncertainty of their health insurance, they decided scrounging up $80 a month for life insurance was worth knowing their children would be safe if something were to happen to their well-being.

She has taken her two boys to Weisskopf, a Child Evaluation Center in Louisville, to obtain all of the documentation needed to prove this therapy is essential with their disorder.

Though she applies every six months for Medicaid and is sometimes granted the coverage, other times she is turned away for earning “too much” money. She said some days she wakes and cries worrying about the future health of her children.

“I say, ‘What’s going to happen to them in the future?’” Giudo said with her 7-year-old son, Erick, at her side. “If something happens to me, what is going to happen to them? That is my concern.”

Giudo said she often debates not taking her kids to the doctor when they are sick because she doesn’t know if the services will be covered or not.

Recent efforts to repeal the current Affordable Care Act were led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from Kentucky, a state that chose to expand its Medicaid options through the Affordable Care Act in 2014, along with 30 other states. As of March 2016, over 400,000 people gained access to health insurance in Kentucky, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on national health and policy issues.

“Everybody is going to get sick at some point,” Giudo said. “At this point, that’s my frustration. They give [Medicaid] to you and you think you have it, and then six months later you just don’t have it.”

The effects of health care legislation extend beyond families like Giudo’s in Bowling Green. Healthcare professionals in places like nursing homes and long-term care facilities are also affected by this legislation, said Margaret Crump, who is the staff development coordinator at the Greenwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Crump said a lack of healthcare coverage creates more long-term patients in the home. These patients require more resources from the nursing staff. Some of the nurses even struggle to cover their own health care bills, Crump said.

“You would think being in the medical profession and being a nurse you should be able to afford insurance for your family,” Crump said. “Sometimes that’s not always the case.”

According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average family premium paid rose by 20 percent from 2011 to 2016. The study involved families on employer-sponsored health insurance with the Affordable Care Act in place.

“If you’re taking care of people and dedicating your life to those people, you should be able to afford health insurance for your family,” Crump said. “When you can’t, that’s a problem.”

Health care policy is also being discussed in pharmacies. Wendy Grimes is a CVS Pharmacy store manager in Bowling Green. She said she has heard many concerns about the changes in healthcare legislation while working at the pharmacy.

“I know that people are a little nervous — especially people on a fixed income,” Grimes said. “[To] some of our elderly, it is a little concerning because their entire health coverage could change within the next year. I don’t think the students are as involved in it. But when I get my older population in here, there’s a lot of talk.”

Grimes herself is worried about the future of health care for her own 10-year-old daughter.

“She’s going to need things, whether it be braces or whether it be something else,” she said. “It’s definitely something I need to think about and something I need to save for now, which I would have never done that in the past.”