Arnie, 54, works as a community outreach worker for a public hospital in the Denver metro area. He advises people in various shelters and community centers on how to apply for Medicaid and assists them in accessing services once they qualify. He mostly works with low-income or no-income families, the homeless, people recently released from prison, and individuals who have lost their employment and insurance. Arnie enjoys his job, which he has had for about ten years, and really likes the people he works with.
What is the impact of Medicaid on the communities you're working with?
"Medicaid actually keeps people alive. The difference between who gets Medicaid and who doesn't often determines who is gonna live and who is gonna die. It also gets people medications that keep them stable and keep them out of jail, so that they can be productive members of society. Medicaid also keeps families together. But most importantly, if you're supplying health care to somebody they feel that they are included in society and that somebody cares-that society cares. If you don't even get health care, then you feel like ‘if nobody cares, then why should I care about your society?'"
Since you are working with a lot of people on Medicaid, what would happen to you personally if the funding for Medicaid were cut?
"I would be scrambling to get people basic things, to help them get by and I'd be trying to connect them with a patchwork of systems. I would still be working-well hopefully. Maybe not."
What would happen to the communities that you're working with if the funding for Medicaid were cut?
"They would fall apart even more than they are now. And things are very hard for people now as it is. If they didn't have basic health care and they couldn't get their medications. They couldn't see the doctor when they are hurt or sick or pregnant and their children couldn't get health care. They couldn't go to school, they couldn't stay together, and they would often end up in jail. People would be off their medications and acting out."
What would you say to people who claim that our state can't afford to pay for Medicaid anymore?
"I would say Mr. Legislator, think of how expensive it would be if you did cut these programs: People would be in the emergency room; people would be in jail; people would not be productive at all. Children wouldn't be able to go to school, so it would hurt our future. Children would be born ill. Mothers would not be able to provide basic health care or stay healthy for their children and be there for them. It would cost society money. And morally it's just wrong. When somebody is sick, they deserve health care."