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Group Pushing To Preserve, Improve Medicare, Medicaid

August 1, 2018

Group Pushing To Preserve, Improve Medicare, Medicaid

SCRANTON — Alexa Deal was only 111 days old when she hit her $1 million lifetime insurance cap.

The 15-year-old from Covington Twp. was born with cerebral palsy and spent the first three and a half months of her life in the neonatal intensive care unit, said her mom, Amy Zemek.

Because of Alexa’s disability, Medicaid kicked in when private insurance ran out.

Zemek worries that ongoing efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which nixed lifetime limits and provides other protections, could soon make paying for her daughter’s care impossible, she said during a roundtable discussion Tuesday with U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-17, Moosic.

Action Together Northeast Pennsylvania, an activist group that promotes progressive issues, met with the congressman for about an hour to urge him to continue his efforts to protect Medicare and Medicaid programs. They also told him where they think those programs should be improved.

Alexa, confined to a wheelchair, needs round-the-clock care, Zemek said.

She gets nutrition through a feeding tube because she can’t swallow. She takes around 16 medicines each day, and can’t be left alone for more than a few seconds.

“It’s kind of like living with an 18-month-old for 15 years,” Zemek said.

Private insurance pays for a home nurse 16 hours a day. Medicaid pays for the other eight.

She leaned forward as she spoke, her voice wavering close to tears. Alexa gripped her mom’s fingers with both hands.

“She’s my joy in life, and I couldn’t take care of her by myself without the nursing care,” Zemek said. “Medicaid for her, it’s her lifeline for staying home ... I can give her a safe home, and a home where she’s nurtured.”

Action Together planned the meeting to coincide with the Medicare and Medicaid’s 53rd anniversary, which was Monday.

The roundtable also happened the same day Cartwright’s Republican opponent in the Nov. 6 general election, John Chrin released an attack ad slamming the Democrat’s voting record, tax policy and alignment with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, among other things.

In a tweet last week, Chrin challenged Cartwright’s vote to preserve a tax on medical devices, an Obamacare provision.

Chrin spokesman Michael Stwarka in an email said the medical device tax is unacceptable because costs are passed on to patients.

Eleven people with Action Together packed Cartwright’s Scranton office conference room where the congressman listened and asked questions Tuesday, but he already knew he has their support for reelection.

Action Together doesn’t back candidates based on party, rather its progressive agenda, said the group’s president, Marlee Stefanelli, but their priorities usually sync with his, she said. They plan to formally endorse Cartwright this month.

Contact the writer:

joconnell@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9131; @jon_oc

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