‘Medicaid expansion literally saved my life’

Steve Schaben says Medicaid is the reason he is still alive.

“If what happened to me had happened to me while I was living in Oklahoma, I wouldn’t have gotten the treatment that saved my life,” he said. “Medicaid expansion literally saved my life.”

In 2016, Steve was living in Colorado and fell three stories in the courtyard of his Denver apartment, breaking several ribs and vertebrae. When Steve received an MRI scan during his treatment, doctors discovered a large brain tumor that had gone unnoticed. Steve needed to have a surgery where part of the skull is removed to remove the tumor. He said the total cost of his treatment was approximately $2 million.

“They’re not going to treat you and give you a bill for that at the end,” he said. “You’re not going to get treatment if you don’t have health care coverage.”

Colorado’s decision to expand Medicaid in 2013 made it possible for Steve to receive life-saving treatment. Now, he urges voters to support Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma, where it could provide coverage for more than 200,000 uninsured individuals.

“Because Colorado accepted the Medicaid expansion , I was able to receive the treatment that I needed,” he said. “Had I not had any form of insurance, they would’ve said, ‘Hey, you have a brain tumor. You should do something about that. Come see us when you have insurance.’ 

“I might still not have my operation. I might’ve passed away from my cancer by now.”

“You’re not going to get treatment if you don’t have health care coverage.”

Since his accident, Steve has found a flexible job that allows him to work from home, which was especially important when he was receiving treatment five days a week. 

Because of his successful treatment, Steve said he continues to lead a normal life. But he knows this is not the case for hundreds of thousands of uninsured Oklahomans who would be left with no options if they had a similar accident.

“I’m here to try and convince Oklahomans to do the smart thing and expand Medicaid,” he said. “You don’t know what you don’t know about your own health. There are a lot of people in the state that can’t afford plans on the market even with the subsidies, and they’re not poor enough for Medicaid. So there’s a huge gap of people.”


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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