The Faces of Medicaid Expansion: Bettina Cox

The people caring for our children in preschools and child care centers are among the Texans most likely to go without insurance. Most earn low wages and would qualify for Medicaid if our state accepts federal dollars to cover them. Fewer than 1 in 5 child care workers get offered health coverage through their jobs, and at least 27% remain uninsured. That’s why people like Bettina Cox, a Houstonite and former child care provider, traveled to Austin this week to advocate for Medicaid expansion.

Bettina meets with State Representative John Zerwas to discuss expanding health coverage in Texas.

Though it was her first time at the Capitol, Bettina got down to business! She spoke at a Texas Organizing Project press conference that Texas Well and Healthy supported, and she met with her elected official. Her message throughout the day was poignant, and it was clear: many hard-working Texans cannot afford health coverage, and when they delay getting regular check-ups or seeking medical treatment, their illnesses unnecessarily worsen.

In November of 2011, Bettina’s health began to decline, and she had to stop working as a childcare provider. Without a job or health insurance, Bettina was consumed with fear and uncertainty. She explained, "I never knew it would be so hard to receive help for a medical condition I had no control over...cancer. My family and I were fearful, frustrated, and worried that I may lose my leg, or worse, my life, for it seemed there was no hope of finding the help I needed.”

Bettina was finally able to see a doctor through the program Gateway to Care and was diagnosed with Stage 1b Cervical Cancer. While waiting to meet with a specialist, her tumor had grown as largeas a grapefruit and was pressing against a nerve in her leg and hip. Without surgery, her leg would have to be amputated. Fortunately, Bettina qualified for the Medicaid Breast and Cervical Program and was able to receive the care she needed. The program, however, provides health coverage only after you’ve been diagnosed.

Today, Bettina is cancer-free. Though she endured a terrifying and painful ordeal, she feels like one of the lucky ones. She knows there are many people who share her story but didn’t receive the treatment they needed in time. About 60 uninsured Texans each week lose their lives because not having health insurance caused them to miss a life-saving screening or treatment. Millions of hard-working, uninsured Texans are still waiting for an affordable health care solution. Motivated by her experience and her faith, Bettina now advocates for herself and the 1.5 million Texans who could receive health coverage if Texas expanded Medicaid. She is an advocate in the truest sense of the word.

Written by: Liz Moskowitz, Texans Care for Children