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“I spent my childhood on Medicaid”

For this week’s Medicaid Matters for Kids’ Mondays, Speak Now for Kids spoke with The Washington Post’s Michelle Singletary about her recent newspaper columns on the importance of Medicaid in the lives of children.


As the discussion about health care continues on Capitol Hill and in the media, the role that Medicaid plays in the lives of children seems to have gotten lost in the fray. Described as a “vital lifeline,” Medicaid ensures over 30 million children who are receiving health insurance coverage that meets their unique needs.

In an effort to bring a face to this debate, Michelle Singletary, a nationally syndicated columnist for The Washington Post, publicly shared her very personal story about growing up with Medicaid health coverage while living with her four siblings and grandparents in Baltimore, Maryland. 

“I spent my childhood on Medicaid, and Trump’s plan to roll it back is disastrous”  came to fruition when Ms. Singletary saw that the debate about health care was missing something important: people talking about real people. It broke her heart to see that elected officials, the media, citizens and others were ignoring the fact that countless among the faces of Medicaid were children.

Big_Mama_closeup.jpegIn her Washington Post column, Ms. Singletary, who describes herself and her siblings as “a sickly bunch,” introduces us to Big Mama and shares why Medicaid was a saving grace for them. Diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, she ended up spending a summer in the hospital receiving physical therapy and being home-schooled after a major flare-up. Her late brother would have severe seizures almost every night, which was eventually diagnosed as epilepsy. Two of her brothers needed glasses, and her sister suffered from severe eczema. Even though Big Mama normally would have avoided any assistance from the state, this hard-working grandmother needed the help – and Medicaid was there for that purpose.

Looking back on her childhood, Ms. Singletary spoke with fondness about the doctors and nurses who she and her siblings encountered.

Michelle_as_a_girl.JPG“I met some amazing health care professionals,” she said before taking a moment to remember the physical therapist who worked with her the summer she was in the hospital. Knowing that Big Mama was busy at work and couldn’t stay with her all the time, the physical therapist became Ms. Singletary’s self-appointed godmother and remains a fixture in her life 40 years later.

“Health professionals, particularly those who work with children…they made a huge difference.”

Ms. Singletary also credits Medicaid for helping to keep her in school by making sure she was healthier. In her column, she writes:

“I don’t take for granted that I owe my good health to a system that never turned its back on me. And that investment paid off. I was able to stay in school, go to college and eventually provide for my own children. It broke that circle of poverty.”

When asked what families who have children on Medicaid can do in these uncertain times, Ms. Singletary points out that there is “a light at the end of the tunnel” and urges families to speak up, share their story and advocate for themselves.

“I think a lot of it is that people can’t conceive that they need help themselves. It is ‘those folks over there…they must be there because they made a mistake’,” she said. “Our voices have to be heard.”


I spent my childhood on Medicaid, and Trump’s plan to roll it back is disastrous was originally published by The Washington Post.

Check out the Speak Now for Kids Issues Page for more information about the role of Medicaid in children’s health care. 


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commented 2017-04-17 21:15:36 -0400 · Flag
Ms. Singletary told a honest story. We must keep Medicaid in place to help many more children and families.