Donald Trump’s insistence on destroying health care and taking it away from millions of families is personal to me and personal to countless Coloradans. It’s why as a lifelong Republican, I will be voting for Joe Biden in November. 

For me it’s incredibly important that we elect a president this November who not only understands the struggles my family has experienced, who supports families with disabilities and individuals with pre-existing conditions, but who also works to expand, not undermine, our health care. 

Joe Biden understands the importance of providing health care for families like mine who have relied on private insurance and Medicaid to get the coverage we needed to get by. 

Kelly Stahlman

My twin boys, Mark and Eric, were born 12 weeks prematurely, and soon after were both diagnosed with profound cerebral palsy. From the beginning of their lives, they required around-the-clock care that insurance would not cover, and that as a family we struggled to cover on our own.

Without Medicaid, we would have had to abandon our kids (at a hospital) and/or live under a bridge. As my husband frequently said, it’s like falling down the rabbit hole. Plus we had their older brother to care for, too.

Our medical bills were extensive. In the first year of their life, the twins nearly reached their lifetime maximum. Two years after they were born, when Colorado cleared the waitlist for a Children’s Medicaid Waiver, and our boys qualified to live at home instead of the hospital and get the daily care they needed, our lives were completely changed.

Medicaid literally meant the difference between life and death for my sons. While my husband’s employer covered major medical evaluations, medical testing and hospital visits, Medicaid kept our children alive providing the ventilator, breathing machines, feeding pumps, power wheelchairs and hospital beds. Medicaid paid for nurses aides to assist with their care.

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Even at the end of their lives, the twins stayed home because they were eligible for nursing care, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in hospital costs. 

Both of our sons lived full, though shortened, lives. They coached sports, went to school and had girlfriends. Mark had a Stephen Hawking body with a Drew Carey sense of humor. 

Eric was passionate about the Rockies, Phineas and Ferb and his fiancee. Their personalities shined and they were beloved in their community. Eric proposed to his high school sweetheart just three weeks before his death when he was 23.

Medicaid was a lifeline for my family for nearly a quarter of a century, and it’s critical millions of Americans continue to be able to rely on it for years to come.

Joe Biden will ensure that families like mine can continue to access life-saving coverage as we did from Medicaid, and that the children, seniors, people with disabilities, rural Coloradans and countless others who this program is supporting are not left behind. 

When my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer the same type as both Beau Biden and John McCain we again relied heavily on our health insurance.

Bruce is achieving excellence, working full time, running and after 35 years of marriage, we get to spend this time together, with our surviving son, his wife and two grandsons.

We absolutely couldn’t spend this quality time together without access to private health insurance that covered the surgery, chemo and radiation that is keeping him alive. Access to health care is vital.

We need a president who realizes that, who won’t play politics with care and economic security that so many Americans are relying on. 

Today as millions of Americans battle with COVID-19, Trump wants to end coverage for pre-existing conditions and cut Medicaid for the poor, the elderly, children and people with disabilities. He’s even trying to gut social security. 

For my family, and for many other families in Colorado, these decisions are personal. They have a profound impact on quality of life, our finances and our futures.

It’s so important we elect a president this November who respects how personal these decisions are, who will stand up for our health care. That’s why I’m voting for Joe Biden, and I hope you will, too. 

Kelly Stahlman is a disability rights activist. She lives in Littleton with her husband, Bruce.

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Kelly Stahlman

Special to The Colorado Sun