Lorena is the primary caretaker of her 18-year-old son with severe physical and mental disabilities. Her son is undocumented so does not qualify for Medicaid, but he receives some help with medications from a county program for indigent residents.
“I always worry about his meds. He needs five and I have to…buy two myself, because the county will only approve three a month… It’s a struggle sometimes, when I can’t manage to get him his meds. They are very expensive. He just spent two months in hospital from November to January. He had pneumonia; he was released just last Wednesday.” She is worried about how she will be able to afford the $300 fee per month for oxygen tanks once the loan from the hospital runs out.
With her son’s medical costs totaling approximately $550, Lorena has very little left of her monthly income to attend to her own health needs. She used to get medications for her other health conditions, which include diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, from a mobile clinic that came once a year, but that program was cut. In the past she also qualified for a county program that covered Pap tests and mammograms for low-income people, but the last time she applied she was told there was no more funding
“About six months ago I went to inquire about a Pap test and was told it cost $125…It’s been about five years since my last Pap test…Between my son’s expenses, paying rent and all that, I just haven’t been able to afford it.”
“I am worried,” Lorena said. “I really want to see a doctor because when I touch my breast I can feel a sort of lump. I don’t know if it’s an abscess or something more serious. So I need to see a doctor but haven’t been able to… Right now I’m concerned because I need a Pap test, I need a mammogram, but I just can’t afford them. I’ve asked around, and they’re really expensive. I just don’t have the money. And yes, it’s upsetting because I used to have them for free, four or five years ago.”
In 2011, the state of Texas made drastic cuts to its family planning program, which forced over one-quarter of state-funded clinics in the Lower Rio Grande Valley to close completely and most others to reduce hours and staff. Low-income women of the Valley like Lorena now have nowhere to turn for a trusted source of affordable reproductive healthcare. For more information about the impact of these policies on women’s lives, read the report.