KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KSNT) — Sara Lynch, who lives in Kansas City with her mother and father, struggles daily with complications from contracting COVID-19 last year.
On Tuesday, Lynch was informed that her lung volume had decreased immensely, now functioning at 35%. Louise, Sara’s mother, told Kansas Capitol Bureau about the lasting impact of the disease that she said nearly took her daughter’s life.
Lynch was on track to become an attorney at the time, just wrapping up law school. But, her life took a significant turn in March 2020 when she got coronavirus. Already dealing with many other medical conditions, like asthma and joint pain, her mother Louise was not sure that her daughter would make it until a physician stepped in offering charity care.
“She was put in the ICU for a while. She had about four different hospital admissions,” Louise Lynch said about Sara’s condition last year. “To have a lung functioning 35% capacity is horrific.”
“I have eye issues. I have some brain damage,” Sara said. “I see multiple specialists at KU med, and I’ve been blessed to be able to get three months of charity care from them.”
Charity care is free or discounted medically necessary health care that some hospitals offer to people who cannot afford to pay for treatment otherwise.
Lynch said once that ends, she’s not sure what she will do.
Unlike Louise and her husband, Sara doesn’t have health insurance after aging out from coverage on her parent’s plan at 26. She said she’s already witnessed firsthand how some facilities treat patients without health insurance when experiencing symptoms after getting a coronavirus vaccine. She described it as being treated like a “leper.”
“I got my COVID vaccine and spiked a fever of 104.2 or so,” Lynch said. “We called the doctor, and the doctor told us to wait until it was 105 or 106 to even bother them because I didn’t have health insurance. I went from being a productive adult, having a job, going on toward a legal career, to now being treated like scum. Because I don’t have healthcare, my health goes down, and I can’t get back into planning for a future.”
After three years of searching, Sara has run out of options to find affordable healthcare in the state. When applying for Medicaid, they said that she was ineligible, counting her mother’s income and her father’s disability income as part of Sara’s earnings. Louise, her mother, said this happened even though Sara is 29-years old.
Lynch is one of the thousands who fall within the Medicaid coverage gap in Kansas, one of 12 states that have yet to expand coverage.
One analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that 44,000 Kansans are caught in the Medicaid coverage gap with no way to get affordable health coverage. It’s an issue that comes up almost every year in the Kansas Legislature, sometimes attached to other proposals, but has fallen short of the support needed to pass.
Some lawmakers that argue against expansion have said that it could lead to steep financial costs for the state over the years. However, Sara’s mother Louise said that expanding coverage would allow her daughter to afford the care she needs and help other people in the state who are struggling to get by.
“I refuse to have her go down that track that she’s nothing and be what these people quote-unquote categorize her in.”