We mentioned earlier today the human costs
involved when states refuse to expand Medicaid. Here in Arkansas, the state expanded coverage via the private option
. If the legislature refuses to re-authorize the policy in future years — or if Tom Cotton
and other congressional Republicans get their way and the Affordable Care Act
is repealed entirely — around 150,000 Arkansans (and counting) would lose their coverage. As our health care debates drag on (and on), it's important that we remember their stories
. One of those Arkansans who has gained coverage is Eleanor Evans
. As it happens, Evans knew Tom Cotton when they were both growing up in Dardanelle. Her mother was the pastor at Cotton's church for two years. I spoke with Evans by telephone today. Here is her story.
Evans lives in Rogers and works two part-time jobs, one in social-media marketing and one as a pet-sitter and dog-walker. She spends around 30 hours, sometimes more, taking care of her mother, 66-year-old Kaye Evans
, who has diabetes and has been in dialysis treatment since going into kidney failure in 2012.
Evans was laid off from her job as a newspaper reporter in 2009 and was uninsured for four years after that, often struggling to afford her asthma medication. Acting as the sole caregiver for her mother, she was unable to find full-time work. She tried shopping for health insurance but was unable to find an affordable policy because of her own pre-existing conditions.
This year she gained coverage under the private option (she took a health screener when she applied and was deemed "medically needy"
and routed to the traditional Medicaid program rather than a private plan). Without the coverage expansion, Evans would be one of the people who falls into a gap of subsidized coverage
— a plight facing millions who live in states that didn't expand Medicaid. Cotton said this week
, once again, that "we...must repeal Obamacare" — but ending the Affordable Care Act
would end the funding for the private option. It would end coverage for Eleanor Evans and millions like her.
"I was so excited when Arkansas [enacted the private option]," Evans said. "When it was approved, I was ecstatic. I didn't realize for a while that some states could reject the Medicaid expansion. Let me tell you, when they were threatening to get rid of the private option...I've asked politicians, what have you got for my situation? And nobody can give me an answer, they just don't answer me."
Kaye Evans is on Medicare, but she is reliant on her daughter as a caregiver.
"I would just say, please, my mother needs me," Evans said. "My mother needs me to be healthy because she is not healthy. This has given our family peace of mind."
If her coverage ended, what would Eleanor do? "I could either go without insurance and keep serving as my mother's caregiver," she said. "Or I could try to find a full-time job that offers insurance as a benefit and risk my mother dying because I'm not here."
Kaye Evans was a Methodist minister for 15 years until she had to retire for health reasons in 2000. That included a stint as Tom Cotton's pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Dardanelle from 1989 to 1991, when Cotton and Eleanor Evans were kids.
Evans said she has tried communicating with Cotton via social media but hasn't heard back. She said she would like to encourage him to "do the Christian thing and support the vast need for health care for those of us who are in that gap."
"There's no place for me if I don't have this coverage," Evans said. "And I don't understand why they'd want to get rid of that place for me. It hurts. I'm really heartbroken by the whole thing."