by Elizabeth Byrum
Each year on July 30, we remember the vital role that Medicaid plays in improving economic and health outcomes for children in the United States.
At NC Child, we specifically celebrate the program’s role in expanding access to health coverage and improving health outcomes for so many children: low income children, children in foster or adoptive care, and children with special health care needs. Medicaid helps ensure that every child has the care they require to thrive.
This year, NC Child also celebrates the initiation of our Parent Advisory Council (PAC), an advocacy group comprised of parents and caregivers from across the state whose children currently use Medicaid services.
In North Carolina, approximately 40% of children rely on public health insurance like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) / NC Health Choice. The goal of the PAC is to ensure that the voices of those most affected are included in decisions about changes to the state’s Medicaid and CHIP/Health Choice programs.
Nikia is a mother of a teenage son diagnosed with intellectual disabilities. She works very hard to make sure her son has access to the Medicaid services and resources that are made available to the community of those living with special needs. As a mother of a child with a diagnosis, she chooses to use her voice to advocate, not only for her son, but also for the community of parents like herself.
Sheila is the mother of two. According to Sheila, “Our family would have been devastated without Medicaid, which allowed my daughter to have the surgeries, aftercare, therapy and mental health support she needed to thrive. We didn’t have to choose between paying for groceries and paying for her health care.”
Jessica is the mother of premature twins with autism. In addition to serving as a member of NC Child’s PAC, she has participated in the creation of a support group for parents of children with special needs. Jessica does all of this so she can increase her knowledge in order to help families in the Hispanic community who are facing special needs diagnoses.
Renita is a wife, mother, and educator. She has experience with both private health insurance and Medicaid and was inspire to join the NC Child PAC because of her experiences with her children who currently receive Medicaid coverage. Renita believes that everyone needs an advocate to ensure they receive the proper care, respect, and information they need and deserve.
Barbara and her family became a foster family in 2005 and have adopted one son who has Medicaid. Through these experiences, Barbara has navigated care for her son and other foster children across multiple service providers, including occupational and speech therapy, behavioral health services, and medical services. She also works as a Certified Family Partner connecting other parents and caregivers with behavioral health services for children and youth with Medicaid.
Jereen lives in eastern North Carolina with her three children. Medicaid has been instrumental in helping her raise three healthy children since 2006. In 2013, Jereen’s daughter was born with a cyst inside her abdomen which required her to have surgery at 8 days old. Her younger children also suffer from eczema. Without Medicaid, the care her children need would be out of reach.
Erica is a 36-year-old mother of two. She first used Medicaid during her pregnancy with her first child. Medicaid became especially essential to her as a young mother after finding out that her baby had a disability. It allowed her daughter to see all the necessary doctors and specialists she needed to see until she received her diagnosis of autism.
Our Parent Advisory Council members have diverse expert experience with a variety of Medicaid services and benefits. As North Carolina continues to face the uncertainty of Medicaid expansion as well as the new chapter of Medicaid managed care, the Parent Advisory Council is a voice for children in North Carolina.
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Elizabeth Byrum is NC Child’s MSW/MPH intern (UNC-Chapel Hill 2019)