OK, so you’re in the eighth grade. You play the saxophone. You’ve been at it for a couple of years and it’s pretty fun. Your parents no longer leave the room when you practice at home; maybe that means you’re getting better.
Your school band director thinks you’re getting better too. She nominates you for a region-wide weekend music workshop, and a few weeks later you find out you’ve been accepted. You’re really excited about it. You will get to stay in a hotel with other kids from 5 states. You will play the saxophone all weekend long and when you get home you’ll have new friends, better musical skills, and great memories. You will eat way too much pizza.
Except you can’t go.
Your dad got laid off over a year ago, and your mom’s job doesn’t offer health insurance. She makes enough money to afford rent and groceries, but not enough to pay for private insurance for you and your sister. You don’t qualify for Medicaid. You’re uninsured, at least until your dad finds a new job.
You get really mad at your mom when she tells you you can’t go. She just starts crying. You ask your band director if this means you need to practice harder. She just shakes her head.
You stay home; you watch football with your dad; you keep practicing the saxophone. Missing the workshop doesn’t ruin your life, but you do sometimes think about how much fun it would have been.
Unfortunately the place where I do my admin job has adopted a new policy for this year. In the past we have required a medical release form for all youth activities, particularly those involving an overnight stay, and have requested a copy of the child’s insurance card as well. There have been one or two unfortunate kids accepted for our programs each year who don’t have health insurance, and we have allowed them to attend anyway, with a signed consent form allowing us to take the child to the emergency room if necessary. This year it has been decided that the university’s liability issues outweigh our mission to provide arts opportunities for kids of all socioeconomic backgrounds, and we will be turning away children who cannot provide proof of health insurance.
I am livid.
I brought this up with my director, telling her that I am extremely uncomfortable with the idea of excluding a kid from our programs just because she’s one of the 7 million American children who don’t have health insurance.
She looked me straight in the face and told me that there’s no reason for a child not to have insurance. She said, and I quote, “Anyone can get insurance. And if they can’t afford it they can go on Medicaid.” Therefore, in her mind, we wouldn’t really be excluding anyone.
I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t even come up with a reply. I mean, have you looked at the Medicaid eligibility requirements? And have you priced out private insurance plans lately? There is a huge gap between the Medicaid income requirements and what you would need to make to be able to afford private insurance.
I am so angry. We are supposed to be a community school. It is literally our mission to provide opportunities for everyone. EVERYONE. Not just people with health insurance. I mean, I understand the university’s point of view, liability blah blah blah, but there has got to be a way to do the consent form so that these kids don’t have to stay home.
This is kicking people while they are down.