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6-year-old Steve receives regular treatment at the Herma Heart Center at Children’s Wisconsin

One Wisconsin family’s Medicaid story

Steve, age 6, is a happy boy with a smile that lights up the room. He may not be able to run as fast or as long as other kids his age, but he enjoys hitting golf balls with his dad, spending time outdoors and playing with his friends at school.

When Steve’s mom, Molly, was 20 weeks pregnant, her OB/GYN discovered abnormalities in Steve’s heart. He immediately referred Molly to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, where she and her husband Matt discovered Steve would be born with five different congenital heart defects — an unusual and difficult diagnosis.

“Our own hearts were breaking as we discovered our son’s special heart,” says Molly. But the doctors and specialists at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin monitored Molly closely, kept the family informed and offered hope and encouragement.

Starting life with complex health needs

After Steve was born, Molly gave him a quick hug and kiss before he was whisked to the NICU. The family soon learned Steve was eligible to undergo the three-stage surgical journey necessary for his survival. Thankfully, Medicaid helped the family with the high cost of care during Steve’s first year when he needed lifesaving surgery.

Steve has now had three open-heart surgeries, and continues to receive regular treatment at the Herma Heart Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. He also gets care at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin-Fox Valley, which is close to home for the Warpinskis. Despite the uncertainty that comes with his condition, Steve’s bravery is contagious. “He’s an inspiration to a lot of people,” says Molly.

Debilitating medical bills

Molly works as a respiratory therapist in Green Bay, and Matt is a steamfitter at a local manufacturer. His job provides commercial insurance for the family, but the out-of-pocket and deductible expenses for Steve’s care were enormous.

“Medicaid helped us with a financial burden that would have been debilitating for our family,” says Molly. “That safety net let us focus on what was most important: Steve’s medical care and recovery, and caring for our daughter who was just a year old when Steve was born.”

Protecting Medicaid for children

In addition to providing a safety net for families of children with life-altering medical conditions, Medicaid ensures access to preventative care for children no matter their circumstance, keeping kids well and health care costs low. Medicaid is the largest insurer of children in the nation, and any reform to the program must maintain essential elements of the program for children and not undermine access to coverage and benefits.

In July, Molly and Matt will travel to Washington, D.C., to share their son’s story with legislators and urge them to support continued strong funding of Medicaid for children.

“We are glad for the opportunity to share the importance of programs like Medicaid that allow all kids to get the best care and grow up to be thriving young people,” says Molly. “We’re grateful for the care Steve got at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and for his bravery and strength. This is our chance to pay that forward.”

To keep up-to-date on what Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is advocating for on behalf of children and families, join Children’s Advocacy Network. You’ll receive updates on our activities and learn about opportunities to contact your legislators and participate in community events.

If you and your family have a health care story you’d like to share, email our government relations team at advocacy@chw.org to let us know why Medicaid is important to you.