June Leffler Published

Online Storybook Tells Success Stories Of Those On Medicaid


Almost a third of West Virginians rely on the Medicaid program for their health coverage. That includes single moms, caretakers, students and every kind of West Virginian under the sun. A collective of healthcare advocacy groups want to highlight those folks. Their stories include accessing essential health services like delivering a baby or seeing a therapist. As different as their needs were, Appalachians For Medicaid says these patients had the peace of mind that they wouldn’t be strapped with outrageous hospital bills. The group created an online storybook giving voice to those in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s June Leffler spoke with Jessica Ice. She is executive director for West Virginians for Affordable Healthcare and collaborated on the project. Those text and video stories are available at

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Leffler: So tell me why you wanted to produce this series of stories?

Ice: We think that using stories to put a face to the numbers and the data around Medicaid can really bring home how important this program is, for a variety of populations. We’re really focused on the pregnancy ones, because we’re working on an initiative here in West Virginia to extend Medicaid coverage for postpartum people for up to a year. So we’ve got stories about why that’s so important. But there’s others, folks who lost their jobs because of the pandemic, we’ve seen a huge increase in Medicaid enrollment that way. We just got a nice story that’s not in the storybook that we’ll put out soon, that I think is is a pretty important one. It shows how Medicaid really helps people who work and live healthy lives. There’s this misconception that Medicaid is for people who don’t work or who don’t contribute to society, whatever that means. But the truth is, people on Medicaid, 50 to 60 percent of them, do work. Others are children or folks with disabilities. You know, if you name a Medicaid subject, that impacts the people, we probably have a story for it. And we’re constantly gathering those.

Leffler: So sometimes people that are on Medicaid, do carry this stigma, that even though they qualify for this assistance, that for some reason they aren’t entitled to it or shouldn’t be entitled to it. Have you seen any of that in your stories?

Ice: You touched on something that’s been around since probably the inception of the Medicaid program back in the 1960s, before I was even born. What you’re touching on is this idea that help from the government automatically makes a person unworthy of living a full and healthy life, and we know that’s just not true. Government support is there for people who need it, and that’s how we take care of our neighbors. At any given time, about a third of West Virginians rely on Medicaid for their health insurance, and having health insurance isn’t something to be ashamed of.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from Marshall Health and Charleston Area Medical Center.