KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jeanette Pettijohn is studying to be a special education teacher.
The 32-year-old Kansas City, Mo. woman attends classes at Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley.
A divorced mother of four young children, she has a work-study job on campus that pays about $6,500 a year, which is still too much for her to qualify for Medicaid in Missouri, though the program covers her children.
She also is far below the earnings threshold ($23,550 for a family of four) that would qualify her for subsidized health insurance in the marketplace established by the federal health reform law.
Pettijohn said the last time she had employer-based insurance was in 2001 when she worked in collections for a bank. Medicaid covered her during her pregnancies and for a little while after each, but the last time she had that benefit was more than a year ago.
Pettijohn said she understands the value of preventive care and that’s one reason Medicaid coverage would be important to her, if she could qualify for it.
“Nobody wants to pay $100, $150 dollars to go see a doctor when they are not sick,” she said, “but then you have to think, ‘What happens if I don’t see the doctor and there really is something wrong and I could’ve prevented it?’”
She said there is history of breast and ovarian cancer in her family and would like to be able to get checked for signs. She said she also has serious dental problems but is unsure if she suffers chronic conditions such as high blood pressure.
She said she worries a lot about what would happen to her kids if she died from something that doctors could have caught early or prevented.
About six years ago, Pettijohn said, she miscarried at 16 weeks. She did not have insurance and she was waiting in a hospital emergency room when it happened.
Politicians that oppose expanding Medicaid must not know what it’s like to be poor, she said.
“I really think that maybe they don’t know what we go through because they don’t have to save and earn and whatever to buy a gallon of milk,” she said.
Pettijohn is among the thousands of people in Missouri and Kansas who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid coverage but don’t make enough to qualify for federal subsidies through the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace.
“I’m dealing with it,” Pettijohn said. “What are you supposed to do? Just sit around and wait for them to do something. No, you move on.”
Stories in this package
→ Kansas hospitals leading new push for Medicaid expansion
→ Profiles of the coverage gap: Kathleen Christian
→ MO Medicaid expansion advocates hope summer work yields compromise
→ KS Senate president says Medicaid expansion unlikely to gain approval this session