Photo Illustration by Elena Scotti/Fusion/GMG, photos via Nikki Brooks

The Senate version of the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, like the House version before it, is a cruel piece of legislation. It is projected to force 22 million people off their insurance. It offers smaller subsidies for worse coverage. It hands a massive tax cut to wealthy people who already don’t pay enough in taxes.

It also aims to cut Medicaid by $772 billion over ten years, and introduces spending caps to limit coverage for those who aren’t kicked off the program outright. Of all the provisions contained in the bill, the changes to Medicaid are the most sweeping and catastrophic.

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In 2015, 97 million people received health coverage through Medicaid. Nearly half of them were children. These are the people who will lose coverage, or see it weakened or capped, if the bill goes through as written. These are the stories behind those numbers.

Nikki Brooks, 36, Kansas

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From the time I was 18 to 21, as soon as I was off my parent’s insurance, I didn’t have health coverage for myself. But when I got pregnant with my son, I was 21 and living in Colorado at the time, I was able to get on Medicaid. Through Planned Parenthood, actually. After I had him, I lost insurance again because Medicaid stops two months after you have the child. Then I was back to being uninsured for the next three to four years. This was my story through most of my adult life—on and off insurance.

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Eventually I moved and got a different job, this one offering insurance through Blue Cross Blue Shield. But the monthly premium for a family plan was outrageous—when you jump from a single plan to a family plan, it doesn’t matter how many kids you have, it’s all the same monthly premium. It was something I just could not afford, so my son stayed on Medicaid.

Then I switched jobs and lost insurance again—the costs went up while the quality of the coverage went down. I had taken a pay cut in the new position and couldn’t afford it anyway. Things stayed that way, again without insurance, for many more years. Then I met my husband, we got married, and I became pregnant with our first child. That’s when I went back on Medicaid. I had my daughter and it was the same as before, the Medicaid stopped for me.

I got back on insurance when I was pregnant with my third child, same story. Now I’m a stay-at-home mom and not covered through Medicaid, but all three of my kids are. My husband has insurance through his job, but it’s still too expensive for the family plan. So, for me personally, the question of insurance has always been, Oh, I’ll get something when I need it.

I try not to think about not having it. I’m not a spring chicken anymore, I’m 36, and I should be having yearly physicals. I should be able to go to the doctor when I’m sick. It bothers me. But any little thing that pops up with me makes me wonder, what would a doctor say? It would be nice to have a little peace of mind. It bothers me a lot, but it’s something I try not to think too much about.

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But even though I don’t have coverage, the amount of pressure it takes off to know my kids are covered is just phenomenal. You don’t get scared when they have a cough or fall down or end up with a terrible diaper rash. Right now, my youngest, who is about to turn one, is having seizures. We’ve made trips to the emergency room, we’ve seen a pediatric neurologist and a pediatric cardiologist because her EKG showed an abnormal wave. So I have thought about this so very much, especially in the last week with the potential cuts being announced [in the Republican healthcare bill]. I can’t even imagine what our medical bills would be without Medicaid. It would be astronomical. You get to the point eventually where you have make decisions like, can we pay the mortgage this month? That’s the reality if it weren’t for Medicaid.

My 14 year old went through a period of depression last year, and he was having suicidal thoughts. He came to me with this information and I immediately got him into therapy. We went to his regular doctor. He got on antidepressants and got into therapy. It literally saved his life. It saved his life. He just graduated 8th grade and was the class spokesman and gave a speech during the ceremony. He has made a complete turnaround.

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I mean I live in Kansas. It’s very red—a very hypocritical red state. It’s extremely disheartening to think there are people who are proudly from the Bible Belt and would look down on someone for their financial situation. It’s frustrating. I’ve had snide comments made to me [because my children are on Medicaid], and I put my head down and bite my tongue. I don’t know what else to do. It feels like a personal attack, even though they don’t know my situation. They don’t know my story. They don’t know my history. I baffles me. It absolutely baffles me.

Have a Medicaid story you want to share for the series? Email me: katie.mcdonough@fusion.net