It’s hard to believe that nearly 10 months have passed since being crowned Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina 2022. I have been engaging in so many advocacy activities over the last year to further my advocacy mission.
I am just a week away from heading out to Ms. Wheelchair America 2023 to compete with 22 other amazing wheelchair advocates in a competition that is going to create memories for a lifetime.
I looked up some of my amazing competitors, some of whom are actually friends of mine, and they all have fantastic platforms engaging in meaningful work to make our society more inclusive to folks with disabilities. It certainly going to be stiff competition for sure.
I know people who lose competitions probably say this all the time, but honestly, WIN or LOSE I am certain of one thing. All of the advocacy work I engage in around the country and globally involve collaborating with people. I don’t just mean anyone, but rock-star disability advocates in their own respective fields regardless of what disability they may have.
So, I KNOW THIS FOR SURE — I will be collaborating and partnering with many of these rock-star women for years to come on so many different missions in the name of making the world we live in more inclusive for future generations. I commend those that came before me and it is only fair that I do my part for those who will take over in the decades to come.
It’s no secret that my advocacy platform for this competition, and no it is NOT a beauty competition for those of you wondering, is health insurance advocacy. I have written tirelessly on this topic and will continue to do so until my last breath, but it is my singular mission in my personal advocacy life to make healthcare more accessible for the disability community. Specifically, I am consistently working towards helping folks with disabilities fight for medically necessary equipment they are denied by their health insurance providers.
Navigating the health insurance appeals process is an unpaid part-time job, which usually ends in high anxiety levels. Take it from me, after 7-hour days at times on hold, it can lead a person to pull their hair out. It makes you want to give up. I’m not sure if it was nature or nurture, but I’m wired in such a way that “NO” is usually a starting negotiation point for me. When someone tells me no, I get fired up. I want to find a solution to the problem. That’s just who I am. Of course, there are moments where I, too, want to give up, but I don’t.
I probably should not work 12 to 14 hours a day in my personal and professional life, but when I see even one person benefiting from my efforts it is all worth it. I stay healthy, exercise, find little pockets of time to relax, but I’m on a mission people. A mission of Health Equity, not just Health Equality.
If you are laying in a hospital bed the last thing you should ever have to think about is if your insurance company is going to pay for a caregiver when you get home or medical supplies or if a certain doctor is in- or out- of network. But this is the reality of the world we live in. Therefore, I am trying to fight within a broken system on a daily basis, but I continue advocating for systemic change.
Take a mission I have been on for the last several years. Adaptive Exercise Equipment. I’ve worked with dozens of organizations, people, and elected officials on trying to re-classify adaptive exercise equipment as medically necessary. I have thus far failed, but am actively, and in real-time I might add, working to introduce yet another piece of legislation in the new year on this very topic. This mission will be measured in years, likely many years.
I am part of a coalition of hundreds of organizations called the ITEM Coalition. It’s a coalition of individuals, and I am one of the patient advocates, dedicated to getting Medicare to re-code power seat elevator’s and standing wheelchairs as medically necessary durable medical equipment. It is taken some seriously smart individual several years and we are almost there, but not quite.
Do you see my point?
It takes a coalition and at the moment, while there are many great intentions, there are only a few in my coalition on adaptive exercise equipment. There should be no doubt in your mind though if you know me, there will be more in my coalition tribe. I will build this effort up brick by brick, year by year.
Okay … Back to the competition! I depart on Saturday, August 13 in return on Monday, August 22. Interestingly, I will also be celebrating my 12-year anniversary since taking that fateful dive all those years ago. Usually, I like to celebrate by going to a beach location with a piña colada, but this year is special. I get to celebrate all of my achievements and hardships with those around me who just “get it.”
With that, wish me luck and I will follow up with an amazing article upon my return!