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ACCESS to Healthcare: Zaynab’s Story

My name is Zaynab, and I am here to share my family's story about how Medicaid changed our lives. I come from a Pakistani American, working-class family. Before the ACA, our family did not have the means to afford health insurance. However, when Medicaid expansion began in Michigan, my family was one of the first to come to ACCESS to get enrolled and take a positive step toward improved health and wellbeing as a family. ACCESS helped us through a lengthy process of applying for Medicaid coverage. We went back and forth with the state health office when finally, in 2015, me and my two siblings received Medicaid coverage. For some reason, my parents had not yet been approved, but nonetheless were glad that we were.

Just a few months later that year, our lives changed forever. My father had been complaining about stomach pain; we told him to go to the hospital, but aside from a trip to a nearby free clinic, he refused to seek further care. I now realize that he was trying to protect us from the financial burden because he didn’t have coverage. One night, he suddenly collapsed in the shower. When the paramedics arrived, he still had a weak pulse, so they took him to the hospital. He passed away in the hospital within 24 hours. We were lost and devastated, and, before being able to grieve and process our loss, we were given a $26,000 bill from the hospital for that one night. At this point, we had a total of $250 in our bank account, and did not know what to do. We figured that we would have to sell our house and car to pay this bill. We returned to ACCESS the next week to tell them what had happened, and this is when they told us they would do whatever it took to get the bill taken care of so we wouldn’t have to resort to that.

ACCESS worked tirelessly with our family over the course of the week  and with the Medicaid office. Because of their efforts, our family finally received Medicaid approval for our father and mother. We were relieved of the $26,000 bill, and were able to focus on grieving and moving forward together, emotionally and financially. Today, we live our lives a little more peacefully because our mother has health coverage and seeks preventive care to ensure that what happened to our father does not happen to her.

My brother was able to focus on his studies, graduate, and start working in a full-time job. As for me, my father’s dream was always for me to pursue a career as a healthcare professional. Because we were relieved of this financial burden, I was also able to focus on my schoolwork in pursuit of dental school. I stand here today not only as a college graduate, but as someone who has been accepted to dental school, and will begin in the Fall. None of this would have been possible without the help of the Medicaid program. I hope you take my story, and ones like it, into consideration when discussing and debating the importance of Medicaid to the lives of Michiganders. Thank you for your time.