‘Medicaid changed the trajectory of my life’

Medicaid helped Milly Daniels receive life-saving breast cancer treatment — it also changed her life’s path.

“My story is important because I don’t look like the average Medicaid beneficiary. I just needed help when I needed it,” she said. “Once I got it, it was like I had a second chance. It made me go to law school. It made me realize that I had more to offer.”

“I don’t think people realize that if you can’t pay for medical services, you don’t get them.”

When Milly was 23, an unexpected pregnancy changed her life. Uninsured and in her final year of college, she worried about her future and how she would afford medical bills. Fortunately, she was able to get on Medicaid, which covered the costs, and delivered a healthy boy with no complications.

“But then I found a lump,” she said.

At her six-week checkup, Milly told her OBGYN about the lump in her breast, which they believed was just inflamed breast tissue or an infection at the time. After an ultrasound came back inconclusive, Milly was told she should have a biopsy.

“That’s when I started to really freak out,” Milly said. “Instantly, in that same appointment, I became worried about money because I knew that wasn’t going to be cheap. I started crying when she said she wanted to do a biopsy because she wanted to do it that day. I said, ‘I just don’t know if I can afford that. We may just have to wait.’”

However, her breast surgeon said Milly still had Medicaid, which would cover the procedure.

“That took one weight off,” she said. “I was still worried about the biopsy and having it done, but the financial part was gone.”

Roughly a week later, and three to four months after initially finding the lump, Milly got her diagnosis – breast cancer. Again Medicaid provided a sense of peace when it came to finances.

“Thankfully, I was allowed to apply for the breast and cervical program through Medicaid, which changed everything,” she said. “If that program didn’t exist, my Medicaid would’ve gone away before I was able to get treatment.”

Milly had numerous procedures including the removal of both her breasts to prevent potential spread of the cancer. She also spent a lot of time in the hospital and received radiation therapy. 

Medicaid paid for it all – hundreds of thousands of dollars. Milly said the misconception of people on government assistance being “freeloaders” is not accurate, and she’s not embarrassed about having to rely on Medicaid assistance.

“That’s what those programs are for. I deserved it and so does every other Oklahoman who falls on hard times and needs help,” she said. “Medicaid did save my life, and that’s not just a tagline.

“A life-changing event like a health care diagnosis — not even cancer, just the pregnancy itself — changes the way you look at life. It’s a crossroads, and you’re going to go up from there or down from there. I can tell you that if you have $17,000 in medical debt from delivering a baby, you’re not going to go up. It’s so powerful what Medicaid expansion could do for people who need health care.”

Since then, Milly had reconstructive surgery, went back to law school, and now works as a lawyer specializing in injury law. She works closely with people who rely on Medicaid and those who don’t qualify for it.

“I know that health care is a business, and if I did not have that money, I would not have been offered the services I was offered, which would have been devastating,” Milly said. “I don’t think people realize that if you can’t pay for medical services, you don’t get them. I think people just think they’ll figure out how to pay for it later, but no. They just literally will tell you that you don’t have options. ”

Since her experience, Milly has continuously shared her story with lawmakers and the general public, urging people to support Medicaid expansion. 

“The benefit of the program is that it didn’t just save me. It didn’t just pay for my treatment. It made me feel valuable because it was there for me and it helped me. Medicaid literally changed the trajectory of my life.” she said. “But it’s not about me and what I can do. My story is about what Medicaid can do with the correct policies and offered in the correct ways. Medicaid can change the course of Oklahomans’ lives.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Miguel Rios joined OK Policy as its Storybanker in May 2020. His career in communications began at Oklahoma City University where he graduated as a Clara Luper Scholar with a B.A. in Mass Communications. Before joining OK Policy, Miguel worked for Oklahoma Gazette, Oklahoma Living magazine and the State Fair of Texas public relations team. Through his diverse work experiences in various areas of communication, Miguel has become dedicated to providing a voice and platform to those who are often overlooked. A proud Mexican immigrant, Miguel carries his passion for empowering marginalized communities in every arena.

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