Have a Heart for Kids Day 2020

Sarah - Yakima

Being born with a hole in your heart and cysts on one lung can make growing up really tough. Just ask seven-year-old Sarah McIntyre.

"Sometimes it's hard because I can't breathe and I want to ride my bike," she says.

Sarah has difficulty breathing even though her heart was repaired and the cysts removed from her lung. Her love of bicycle riding belies the ongoing frailty of her health.

"Just looking at all the things she does, no one would know she is as sick as she is," says Sarah's mom, Vicky McIntyre.

Regular medical care is the key to a happy and active life for Sarah. With it, her future looks bright, full of all the things she loves to do, like camping, reading and playing sports. Without it, illness will likely dominate Sarah's life, robbing her of the joy and innocence that all kids deserve.

For three long years, the quality of Sarah's life hung in the balance. Until age five, Sarah qualified for coverage through the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). But in 2006 the family's income increased. It was enough to make her ineligible for the program, but not enough for the McIntyres to afford the comprehensive kind of private insurance Sarah needs. Neither Vicky nor Dewayne can get affordable or adequately comprehensive medical coverage for Sarah through their jobs.

Sarah and her parents, Vicky and Dewayne, were left walking a healthcare tightrope. When she was stable, Sarah managed her bronchial asthma with medications that cost the family nearly $800 a month. And the family was able to avoid  the familiar trek to Children's Hospital in Seattle, where Sarah has gotten specialized care in the past.

"I don't know what we'll do if there is an emergency, or how we'll be able afford Sarah's prescriptions," Vicky said then. "I've been at my job for 12 years and my husband at his for 10 years. I'm not asking the state to support my family. I just want help to get the proper medical care for my daughter."

Under the Cover All Kids law, Sarah was supposed to become eligible for insurance again in January, 2009, when eligibility was extended up to 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Like hundreds of other families, the McIntyres applied in November for that coverage and in December heard the good news: Sarah would get Apple Health for Kids on January 1, 2009.  

But then came the state budget crisis. The McIntyres were told Sarah’s coverage would have to wait.

It was a heartbreaking turn. But Vicky McIntyre didn’t take it lying down. She made the long journey from Yakima to Olympia to testify before the legislature about what Apple Health meant for her daughter. Thanks to the advocacy of people like Vicky, and to the passage of federal legislation giving extra money to Washington for children’s health, in February the legislature reinstated the coverage for moderate-income families. Even better, the coverage was made retroactive to January 1, 2009. This coverage is now available to all Washington children in families earning up to 300 percent of the poverty level.

Vicky can rest easy now, knowing she can count on Apple Health for Kids for the care Sarah needs to flourish.