Medicaid helps fill gaps in tribal health services

Ginger Willhite’s daughter is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, which provides free health care for its citizens. However, when her daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, she required specialty care that was not available through her tribal health care but available through SoonerCare. Do you have a health care story? Visit


Testimony by Ginger Willhite

“My daughter is four years old and is on SoonerCare. She is also a registered member of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. 

At age two, she had to be life-flighted from Cherokee Nation W. W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah to The Children’s Hospital at Saint Francis in Tulsa. She was in severe diabetic ketoacidosis and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I learned then that even though the Cherokee Nation provides free health care for its citizens, it is lacking if you’re a child with Type 1 diabetes. 

GW-quote-400x400Fortunately, my daughter was enrolled in SoonerCare, the state’s Medicaid program, at the time of her diagnosis. Her endocrinologist prescribed half-unit Novolog insulin pen cartridges, and 5mm pen needles. SoonerCare paid for those prescriptions. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah could only provide her with whole unit Novolog pens, and 8mm pen needles, which couldn’t be used for a two year old. 

In 2019, SoonerCare paid for her insulin pump, and every month SoonerCare pays for her insulin pump infusion sets and reservoirs to be shipped to her. In May 2020, SoonerCare began paying for her continuous glucose monitor. The Cherokee Nation health care system does not cover insulin pumps or continuous glucose monitors. 

It’s very important that children on SoonerCare with chronic illnesses are not forced off the program when they turn 19. Their chronic illness isn’t going to go away. I voted to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma in hopes that those with chronic illnesses, such as Type 1 diabetes, will not have to face drastic reductions in their health care because they ‘aged out’ of SoonerCare.”


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Miguel Rios worked as OK Policy's Storybanker from May 2020 to January 2022. 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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