For unemployed, getting health care is its own battle

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For the last 15 years, Tara Morris has served as executive director of the Elkhart County Minority Health Coalition. In a county where nearly one in five people is unemployed, finding a job is one battle, and getting health care is another.

“Nine times out of 10 they don’t have a physician, they don’t have insurance,” said Morris.

Many residents show up at free health fairs, as did Elkhart resident Debra Dunham. The last job she had, two years ago, was cleaning apartments.

“Now I’m not doing anything. Just sitting there putting in job applications, goin’ job huntin’. There’s nuthin’ out there,” Dunham said. She supports her five kids along with one grandchild.

Morris not only works on the front lines of health care, but also has first hand experience with it at home. Her son, 25-year-old Preston Morris, was a high school wrestler and got a college scholarship. Eventually he had to turn down the scholarship after being diagnosed with a heart condition.

“I have cardiomyopathy and am right now living with a defibrillator in my chest, helping my heart pump,” Preston said. His medical condition was in-check until March when inexplicably his Medicaid benefits were cut off. Preston says his caseworker recently discovered not all of his medical records had been forwarded – the likely cause for his loss of Medicaid coverage. Preston hopes an appeal hearing will help.

Aside from her personal frustration, Preston’s mother insists there’s one way things can change.

“I believe in voices, screaming as loud as you can constantly, constantly getting with our legislators locally and statewide,” Tara Morris said. “Don’t give up. Complain. Speak out. Talk about it.”

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