Steve, a 53-year-old St. Louis resident, became a quadriplegic due to a motorcycle accident at the age of 20. He explains, “as a quadriplegic, I am unable to use my legs and hands which consequently means I am unable to cook, bathe and even get out of bed by myself, but I have a mind and a desire to be part of my community.” Fueled by this desire, Steve attended the University of Missouri at Columbia where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in History and Anthropology and later received his Master’s in Education as well as teaching certificates in Social Studies and Spanish.
Steve now works part-time as an adjunct professor at Maryville University and also as Director of Education and Training at Starkloff Disability Institute. Since he is working, he pays taxes and a premium to Medicaid. He explains that the structure of the current Medicaid system prevents him from advancing professionally—due to Missouri’s extremely low-income eligibility requirement if he earns just $50 more than his current salary he will lose the Medicaid program that allows him to hire the attendants he needs to live and work in the community. He stresses, “If I lose my workers, I will lose my job, and then I will lose my apartment and be forced into a much more expensive nursing home. This would not only be a complete waste of my humanity but a complete waste of the investment that the people of Missouri have put into me.”
From Steve’s perspective, he believes that Medicaid programs which keep him working and living in the community make economic sense: “Not only does every dime that I earn get funneled right back into the Missouri economy, but I also do not use other resources such as food stamps, subsidized housing, the circuit breaker tax refund, etc. Why not allow me to earn more and pay more into Medicaid as well as more Missouri taxes?” It frustrates him to see policymakers make cuts to Medicaid programs for those with disabilities, and also to know that Missouri’s Medicaid income eligibility level is so low that it actually prevents him and others from being able to save any money in case of an emergency. He believes that in order to create a system that truly benefits all who need it, “the policymakers of Missouri must re-examine the current Medicaid system, a system that was designed in 1965 and does not fit the demands of an all-inclusive, diverse and accessible society.”