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By Saira G. Soto
In many communities, having access to Medicaid could be the difference between life and death. Medi-Cal made a profound difference in my life as a child.
I was always a sickly child. I suffered from chronic respiratory allergies and an undiagnosed skin condition that often resulted in open sores all over my body. I often wore long sleeves and my hair over my face to conceal the sores. As a result it was hard to make friends and I had very poor self-esteem which made my childhood very lonely. This was compounded by other factors resulting from living in poverty and a lack of access to medical insurance. When we could afford to pay a doctor my mother and I walked long distances or took the bus to the clinic to seek treatment, but without coverage we often relied on alternative and questionable methods of care that were mostly based on faith and hope. And these providers were not adequately trained to diagnose or treat my ailments.
At age 13 I qualified for Medi-Cal. It gave me greater access to specialists for my conditions and they provided the right medication to control and heal the symptoms. Medi-Cal changed my life. I no longer had to wear long-sleeves throughout the year to cover up my arms or keep my head down because I was embarrassed by the sores on my face. Back then, I was also able to get braces through the program. Stable access to healthcare through Medi-Cal gave me the confidence to live my life and connect with people. If you look back at my photos, in middle school, I often smiled with my hand covering my mouth or a closed mouth smile. But in high school photos, there was a full-blown smile.
My point is this: When you don't have access to consistent medical care, you go without care. Many families, like mine, also experience poverty, instability, trauma, and high levels of stress, but at some point we knew that our health needs would be met under Medi-Cal. That one constant was an investment in my wellness so that I could grow up and become a contributing member of my community.