COLUMBUS, Ohio — Some rural Ohioans are part of a multistate project sharing how the Medicaid program has changed their lives.
Appalachians for Medicaid
is an online storybook featuring people and families from Ohio and three other states.
Steve Wagner, executive director for the Universal Healthcare Action Network of Ohio, said the project highlights how Medicaid is keeping people healthy, employed and part of their community.
"We are always looking to understand people's experience with Medicaid, or not having health insurance and how that has impacted them, so that we can better inform the policymakers and create some positive change," Wagner explained.
Stories featured in the digital storybook include Ohioans who've been able to pay for surgeries that allowed them to stay on the job, and others who've received life-saving treatment for opioid addiction.
An estimated one in four Ohioans relies on the Medicaid program for medical coverage.
Ohio expanded Medicaid to households with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty line in 2014. Since then, the state has seen a 46% drop in its uninsured rate.
Wagner noted the program will continue to be crucial as the nation emerges from the pandemic.
"Medicaid needs to stay that helping hand for when people begin to struggle, when the economy has a big downturn and people's wages go down, or they've lost their jobs," Wagner urged. "It needs to be there to assure that we have healthy people in healthy communities."
Wagner added sharing these stories can help build regional support for defending the program. According to a 2018 state report, people age 19 to 64 in the Appalachian region of Ohio are more likely than people in other parts of the state to have high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity.