Back in the Saddle - Medicaid gives John Abbate second chance at independence

By Mike Ervin

John is the third from the left in the front row. This picture taken at 2017 Chicago Women’s March
John Abbate was a 22-year-old student at Indiana University in Bloomington. He was an avid bike racer who took part in the annual Little 500 bike race in Bloomington.

Then, on a cold March day in 2007, John slipped and fell on the ice and hit the back of head. He got up and carried on but he had such a bad headache that he soon went to the hospital. A doctor discovered that John had a life-threatening brain tumor.

“He said if I was one of his kids he’d get it removed this week,” John says. So John had emergency surgery. But he was confident because doctors were optimistic about his chances for a full recovery. “They told me I’d be up and riding my bike by next semester.”

But instead John ended up in intensive care. “I lost my independence and I spent years working my butt off and struggling to regain it.”

John feels fortunate that during his extensive and grueling rehab he was covered by what he refers to as his parents “gold-plated" insurance plan. But, he says, the insurance company tried to cut him off twice during rehab. “Luckily I had family to fight for me.”

When he became too old to remain on his parents’ plan, he transitioned onto Medicaid. John says, “Like millions of other people with disabilities, I now rely on Medicaid for my basic doctor visits, numerous specialists, meds, wheelchair and medical equipment. These things save lives and allow me to maintain my independence.”

John never did ride a bike again, but ten years later, John gets around using a manual wheelchair and is back in school at the University of Illinois –Chicago. He plans to graduate with a master’s degree in sociology in May 2018.

John says his 10-year comeback taught him a lot about the vital importance of Medicaid. “Without it I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. It’s as simple as that. Per-capita caps can potentially make my struggle of years and hard work for nothing.”