OPINION: JOSH BLESSINGER — Health care gap hurts Idaho veteran, family

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Josh Blessinger GUEST OPINION

We should all reflect on what it means to be an American and never take for granted the sacrifices that many have bravely made to secure our freedom. When I was 20, I enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. Serving in the military is not only a sacrifice for the person enlisted but also for the entire family. I served for four years including combat service as part of the initial invasion force into Iraq. As a result, I have numerous service-related health conditions and disabilities.

Fortunately, I have health coverage through the VA and they take great care of me. Unfortunately my wife, Pam, does not qualify for health coverage because she falls in the health care coverage gap. We don’t make enough to afford her health care or qualify for tax credits and we also make too much to qualify for Medicaid. Closing the health coverage gap would be an important way to make sure that veterans and their families are taken care of here in Idaho.

I joined hundreds of Idahoans from across the state on July 6 at the Idaho Statehouse when volunteers turned in more than 60,000 signatures to Idaho’s Secretary of State that will put Medicaid expansion on the ballot this November. Volunteers from across Idaho worked for months to gather these signatures and my family and I are so grateful for their efforts. This was a historic event and I was honored to share my family’s story to underscore how important it is that Idaho expands Medicaid.

In addition to working part time, my wife cares for me and our two children, both of whom have special needs. Her life is stressful enough with her responsibilities to our family, but it is especially difficult because she has chronic health conditions that must be managed and can’t be cured. Now she needs surgery for a health condition that often leaves her in excruciating pain. Every day, I worry about her and our children who rely on her. Pam and I have considered moving to a different state so she can receive the health care she needs. But it’s crucial that we live close to our support system here and Idaho is home. If the ballot passes, we will never have to grapple with that impossible decision again.

I implore all Idahoans to think about what it means to truly be free and the sacrifices made by so many to secure those freedoms. Having access to health coverage is essential to the independence we all strive for as hardworking Americans. Closing the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid at the ballot will make a huge difference in the lives of many Idahoans, especially veterans and their families. I hope you and your family will join us over the next few months as we all work to make sure the ballot measure passes. I encourage all Idahoans to support this ballot initiative and think of the many families across Idaho that would be helped by having affordable access to health care.

• • •

Joshua Blessinger lives with his family in Boise. He is a combat veteran that served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the initial Iraq invasion. He now lives with many service-related disabilities. His wife, Pam, works part time and cares for him and their two children with special needs.

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