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Regina's Story

Regina Lewis has three beautiful children, including two who happen to be adopted. Her kids have gone over two years without an annual checkup, and as a family, they’ve had to make difficult decisions about other yearly doctor’s appointments like trips to the dentist and eye doctor. Regina and her family have had a difficult time navigating the healthcare system. It has caused Regina and her husband to bounce around jobs as they try to find a solution to provide care for their growing children. 

Regina’s son Nathaniel was privately adopted when he was two days old. Nathaniel does not qualify for Medicaid programs because he was not adopted through Child Protective Services. Being ineligible for Medicaid and state programs left Nathan without any health insurance. The only time he was covered was through his birth parents’ employers. 

Regina’s insurance covered Nathaniel until she resigned from her job to complete her internship requirements for her social work degree. It left Nathaniel and the rest of the family without health insurance. Her husband retired from his position at a local medical center to pursue employment elsewhere. It would allow him to receive his retirement benefits in addition to full-time benefits from another job to make up for Regina no longer having a job. She and her husband went through a couple of jobs looking for the best situation for the family. 

Regina started working for a small non-profit organization that was unable to offer health insurance. It sent Regina and the family to the Marketplace to look for health insurance, but it also presented challenges. The main hurdle was paying to have Nathaniel, who has astigmatism in both eyes, covered. Being denied Medicaid and CHIP, Nathan’s monthly premium for coverage was the same as that of Regina and her husband, which would have forced the family to pay more than $500 a month. Instead of paying the high premium, the family paid out of pocket for Nathan’s doctor visits and medical care. 

Although Regina’s two other children have coverage, they are adversely impacted by Nathan not having insurance. Regina does not want to exclude her children in any way, including doctor visits. Many of the family’s doctors require payment upfront. Taking the family to regularly scheduled doctor’s appointments is financially challenging because of the out-of-pocket cost for Nathan. For example, the whole family wears glasses, but glasses for Nathan alone can cost upwards of $300. They usually do not go at all or are very selective about when and how often they visit. 

Regina feels like an embarrassed mother. Even as a professional with a career now, Regina feels she is in the same position she was when she was 19, a single mother working at an ice cream shop with no health insurance. She still must choose what bills to pay and determine how to balance health and finance. This struggle shouldn’t exist, especially not for children.    

For example, the whole family wears glasses, but glasses for Nathan alone, because he has no coverage, can be upwards of $300. Due to the steep price of Nathan’s insurance, it is easier for the family to skip visits altogether or at least be selective in when and how often they go. 

Nathan not having health insurance limits his access to healthcare and all of his siblings’ access to care. There is no reason for children not to be able to go to the doctor as often as necessary. 

Regina feels embarrassed. At this stage, she shouldn’t have to choose what bills to pay and determine how to balance health and finance to keep her children healthy. 

Through local town halls and major summits held across the state, women crafted our policy agenda focusing on expanding childcare subsidies, affordable and comprehensive health care, jobs that pay living wages, pay equity and paid family leave, tuition assistance that covers childcare for single moms and protections from domestic violence.

The primary goals include building power and achieving progress toward an ambitious policy agenda on women’s economic security in a hostile political environment; strengthening, expanding, and engaging MWESI’s statewide network and leadership team; and deepening civic engagement of women of color across Mississippi. This policy agenda continues to be relevant to the women and families of Mississippi five years later.