Good afternoon! My name is Debra Wittig. I am here today as one of almost half a million Kentuckians who have health insurance because of Medicaid expansion.
For me, it is no exaggeration to say that Gov. Steve Beshear’s decision to expand Medicaid in Kentucky literally saved my life. Before getting health insurance in 2014 through Medicaid expansion, I had lived for twenty years without health insurance.
I have struggled with rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and osteoarthritis since I was in my 20s. Trying to manage these chronic conditions without health insurance was hell: I was in extreme pain. My career in health care fell apart because of my own health problems. Untreated, this pain and my health problems became so severe that became suicidal during the decades I was uninsured.
Before I got insured through Medicaid expansion, I was bound to a walker and could not go up and down stairs. That period of my life broke me and changed who I am. I was often bound to my bed because of arthritis in my joints and spine, the swelling, the migraines.
Now that I have health insurance, I have gone from praying that my life would end to having a life again. I have made a lot of progress since I've been able to get regular treatment for my chronic health conditions. After getting the health care I needed, I was able to return to work. I'm still only physically able to work 12-14 hours a week at a local fast food restaurant, but this work would have been impossible without health care.
That's what made me so mad about the last Governor's plan to make people work to keep Medicaid: it is exactly backwards. Look at me: if people get healthcare, they will go back to work if they can. I want to work. But, making people work in order to keep their health insurance—to keep their health—is just wrong.
I want to say two things while I have your attention. First, I'm just one person with one story. Medicaid expansion is helping hundreds of thousands of people every day across Kentucky in ways big and small. And not just the people who have health insurance now. It's helping employers have healthier workers. It's helping doctors treat their patients' chronic conditions. It's helping rural hospitals stay in business.
Second, I want to thank the people in Kentucky and across the nation who have worked hard to protect the progress Kentucky has made by embracing and implementing the Affordable Care Act: the Insure Kentucky Coalition and my attorneys at the Kentucky Equal Justice Center, the National Health Law Program, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Medicaid expansion saved my life and I know that all across Kentucky people are living longer, better lives because of it. I'm thrilled to be here today to help celebrate this moment.