‘I am now on Medicaid, and I can get the necessary tests done’
Editor’s note: Congress is considering repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and is debating major structural changes, and perhaps significant cuts, to Medicaid, which serves 74 million Americans. Voices for Human Needs is reaching out and telling the stories of those who could be harmed if the ACA is repealed without a suitable replacement or if Medicaid is significantly scaled back.
Brad Wisniewski, 58 years old, is a soft-spoken, tall, well-built man struggling to find whatever work he can, ranging from going door to door seeking work to accepting employment at a low-paying supermarket that offers only 18-hour weeks for most of its employees, at a tad above the minimum wage. Earlier in life, he had handled heavy equipment in building roads but there is not much of that kind of work left in the Midwest. His age and various medical complications are catching up with him and he recently went to a homeless shelter where he applied for Medicaid and was accepted.
This is my interview with Brad.
“When I lie down in bed at night, I can feel my heart fluttering. Four years ago, I had an EKG. The doctor found some abnormal signs and had me take a stress test. Its findings were inconclusive and he wanted to do radioactive testing, but I did not follow up on it because I could not afford it. I was younger then.
“When you get to be a little older, you start to fear what might happen to you, who knows when.
“I am now on Medicaid and I can get the necessary tests done.
“But if I get cut off, what is a person to do? Die? What would happen to my health but keep deteriorating until who knows what? What would happen to my heart? I could become a walking time-bomb.
“I’ve been working since I was 14 years old. Over the past 17 years, it has been very hard to find anything.
“I loved working on roads and handling big machinery. I was good at it and I can still see and feel it. The roads need the work, but they have not been doing it. They just built a new asphalt plant near here. There might be work. I just don’t know.
“For a number of years, I was married and we had two kids. She divorced me and I had to keep up on paying child support. My father died and left me some money. I used it all to pay the whole child support off. I do not owe a cent.
“I was born here in Evanston and had moved to Pennsylvania. After the divorce, I moved back here. My children are now 36 and 25 years old.”
“But decent jobs are hard to get. I worked at a supermarket. The job I had was like most of those there. It was for 18 hours. I worked one week for only 17 hours and after taxes, Social Security and union dues, I got a check for exactly 37 cents. I still have it.
“I tried another supermarket, but I had to take a train and a bus to where I would be trained. I could not afford the fares.
“I have gone door to door and asked for work. I actually like doing it. People are usually very polite even if they do not have any work for you. Occasionally, someone will give you $5 even if they do have you do anything. I have a regular snow-shoveling job for a whole block of stores.
“I do not mind eating at the soup kitchen, but I like to be able to have some food in the apartment.
“We get help from the government in food stamps. I worked all those years whenever I could and paid my taxes. I feel I need help now and it is pay-back for what I paid when I paid my taxes.
“I haven’t given up looking for work, a full-time job or whatever. I keep looking. Who knows what is around the corner?
“In the meantime, I am going to have my heart checked out. I don’t begin to see how they think of not taking care of those of us whose lives are at stake.”
Do you have a health care story you’d like to share with Voices for Human Needs? Do you know someone who depends on the ACA or Medicaid for health care coverage? We’d love to hear from you! You can share your story here.