The Faces of Medicaid Expansion: Patricia Gonzales

Patricia Gonzales’ story is not an uncommon one in Texas. She is a mother of three from Pasadena, Texas. Two of her children have mental health needs that require proper ongoing treatment. Her 22 year old daughter has ADHD and has been on medication since she was diagnosed at the age of 6. With proper medication she performed well in school and was able to participate in sports. Once she turned 19, she lost access to Medicaid benefits that kept her functional in her school and community. Due to the lack of medically necessary treatment she was not able to continue into higher education.  The family tried working with safety net clinics in her area to continue her medication, but they only offered limited access to generic brands that weren’t as effective.

One in 5 children in the United States experiences a mental health concern and many develop a serious mental illness during their late adolescence. A disruption of medically necessary services occurs for thousands of Texas’ transition age youth (ages 14-24) each year as they age out of Medicaid. Currently, Texas’ Medicaid program serves only a small proportion of parents and aged and disabled adults. In order to qualify a transition age youth would have to have a disabling serious mental illness.

This could all change if the state decides to accept new federal dollars set aside to expand Medicaid eligibility for all low income individuals. This way, children who currently benefit from mental health services are able to continue receiving therapies and medication as a young adult until they obtain the financial stability to purchase health insurance on their own.

Patricia’s youngest son is one of these children. He is able to thrive in school and band with ADHD and an anxiety disorder. He constantly sets challenging goals for himself and hopes to attend college three years from now. But, Patricia is concerned he will not have access to affordable and comprehensive health insurance at a point in his life in which he will be going through many complex transitions such as continuing onto college, finding employment and living on his own. Expanding Medicaid will provide Patricia’s son with an assurance that his aspirations will not be disrupted by his mental health needs.

Written by Clayton Travis, Texans Care for Children