The Frontera of Healthcare: Life in the Middle

It’s been said that being Chicano means living on the hyphen between Mexican-American; not quite Mexican, not quite American. We live our lives in a perpetual frontera, a borderland between two different cultures. Many Chicanos mix languages, speaking English at school, Spanish at home and Spanglish with our friends. We even mix our food. I remember, as a kid, putting everything into fresh tortillas at my grandma Charlotte’s house: chicharrones, hot dogs, BBQ chicken — you name it.

Borderlands also exist along socioeconomic lines. When I graduated from high school I was unable to get financial aid. My parents’ income was too high to qualify but not high enough to pay for me to go to college. I didn’t get my degree for another 13 years. During most of that time, there was no way that I could have afforded health insurance. I dreaded getting sick or being injured because I knew that going to the emergency room could make me bankrupt. I was once again living in a frontera that had real world consequences for my wellbeing. I made too much money to qualify for assistance yet too little to pay for insurance monthly.

In 2013, on a trip to visit family in California I became very ill. I spent four miserable days taking turns running to the bathroom and curling up in the fetal position in my uncle’s guest bedroom. The day before I was supposed to fly home, my uncle suggested that we go to the emergency room to get checked out because I was not improving. I refused because I didn’t have insurance, and I knew that I couldn’t afford to pay any subsequent bills from the visit. There I was — so sick I could possibly die — refusing care because my financial status was in a grey area.

After several hours, my uncle insisted that we go to the hospital and I reluctantly agreed. I spent less than two hours in a cold bed hooked up to an IV. They gave me 4 liters of saline (salt water) because I was severely dehydrated and sent me on my way. When I got home there was a bill waiting for me totaling $7300. I was waiting tables at the time, and that salt water cost me 4 months wages.

The next year Colorado expanded Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I was reluctant to even apply because I had convinced myself that there was no way I could ever qualify. Fortunately, I was wrong.

The ACA was a godsend for many Americans like me who struggled through living in a health care Frontera for years. Until its passage the system was set up to discourage upward mobility. It forced people with preexisting conditions to not seek employment because they feared moving into the grey zone. Mothers I know waited to go back to work because they had to have the Medicaid for their babies, and many of us just crossed our fingers, hoping for the best.

Now things are different. Millions of us who had existed in this borderland of insurance coverage now have access to basic care. We have the peace of mind knowing that if something goes wrong it won’t be the end of the world. We can get physicals, birth control, physical therapy and mental health services that allow us to continue studying, working and volunteering to make this nation a better place for us all.

The borderlands of our country are about to become the batteground of our society`s ideals and philosophies. For those of us whose roots are native to the frontera, la lucha sigue.

Join me in taking action & sign this petition to tell your Congressional members that repealing the Affordable Care Act is NOT good for Colorado — — or our nation: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/stand-up-for-the-affordable-care-act

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Generation Latino

Generation Latino

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Raising the voice of Latinx in conversations about decisions that matter by sharing stories about #LatinoValues & getting out the vote.