Michigan United member and MS patient Ann Serafin of Ferndale shares her family’s care story
Michigan United member Ann Serafin joined with members of the national coalition “Caring Across Generations” in a special Senate hearing about why proposed changes and cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act would hurt their lives, and the lives of millions of Americans. The forum was organized by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).
For many seniors, middle-class families, young adults, and people with disabilities, these three foundational programs are integral to their health care. Even at their current levels, these programs are not strong enough for the growing senior population, or Elder Boom. Now, as Congress threatens to cut these vital lifelines, Caring Across Generations members and many other Americans who benefit from these programs are coming together to urge Congress to make our care system stronger, not weaker.
Ann Serafin, also a member of Michigan United, made the trip from Ferndale, Michigan, to explain how she was able to address her own health needs on top of managing the care of her mother who had dementia. Diagnosed with MS at age 40, Ann lives at home with her husband, who is her primary caregiver.
“Without Medicare or secondary insurance, the medication I take to keep my MS symptoms in check would cost about $75,000 a year,” she says. “Without Medicare, I would have had to decide: do I eat, or do I get my meds?”
Ann and her husband also financially supported Ann’s mother, who relied on Medicaid for her nursing home care until she passed away last year at the age of 98. “I couldn’t care for her complex care needs; I needed help for my own care,” said Ann. “Even a barebones nursing home would have been too much for us at $6,000 a month. It was only because of Medicaid that she was able to get the help she needed at the end of her life.”
Whether provided at home or in an assisted living facility, quality care can break the budgets of American families. The high costs of care, in addition to serious threats to the limited social safety net programs that support care, mean that more than ever, our caregiving families need more support, not less.
Small business owner Holly Jensen, from Cleveland Heights, OH, also understands the importance of these vital programs. She traveled to Washington to speak about how Medicaid saved her life. Untreated anxiety and mental health issues nearly destroyed her ability to run her business, as well as her connections to her family and her community.
“I had to cancel an important work trip at the last minute. I couldn’t do it. My anxiety was getting out of control, and the worse it got, the more out of control my OCD got. It was a downward spiral from there.” It wasn’t just her business that suffered under the weight of her untreated condition. She withdrew from being an active volunteer in the local arts community.
Through Medicaid, Holly was able to rebuild her business, her relationships, and her life. “This care not only saved my life, but it also gave me back my life. Thanks to Medicaid, I am becoming the professional I want to be again – and the person I want to be again. Without it, I know I would have eventually depended on emergency care, taxpayer-funded rehab, and the legal system. I would have cost taxpayers much more than the expense of my basic care now.”
Ann and Holly’s stories reflect the experience of millions of Americans who have benefited from Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. Protecting and strengthening these programs is bigger than any political fight – it is about people’s lives. We are at a moment in our country where we need to be moving forwards, not backwards. “I hope that Congress hears us, and does what the majority of us actually want them to do. The Caring Majority is greater than any political divide,” said Ms. Jensen.