Last month I had the opportunity to attend the premiere of the documentary film short MS Left Me Out. The documentary shows how strongly policy affects the lives of people, and it also gives viewers an inside look into the lives of people who were directly affected by the decision of legislators not to expand Medicaid in Mississippi.
MS Left Me Out actually started off as the name of a campaign that brought awareness to the healthcare system in the state. I wanted to get more information about the making of the film so I reached out to one of the producers, Kristian Weatherspoon and the director Roderick Red for a short interview.
Kristian was the leading force behind the film. Having previously worked for the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, she assisted individuals with healthcare enrollment after the Affordable Care Act law was passed. It was during her experience with helping people with enrollment that she realized how detrimental not expanding Medicaid was to the state of Mississippi.
“Many of the individuals that were trying to get enrolled had to be turned away because they fell into coverage gaps. People that fell into coverage gaps made too much money to qualify for traditional Medicaid but were not making enough to qualify for tax credits that would assist them in paying for market place/ACA insurance. Without those tax credits the insurance offered was too expensive and it left many individuals in an unfortunate dilemma of not being insured.” ~KW
For those that are unaware, in 2008 The Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare was passed. Under this law every state had to expand their Medicaid programs so that low income people could get Medicaid. A Supreme Court decision gave states the option of not expanding and Mississippi was one of the states that decided not to expand. Some state legislators felt that it was unconstitutional to force Medicaid expansion even though the federal government was willing to pay for expansion.
“People have this misconception that many individuals needing coverage are lazy but these are some of the most hardworking people. They are the service workers, fast food workers, construction workers, barbers and hair stylists. Some of them are working two or three jobs just to maintain. I was touched the most when I met a lady that had a lump in her breast but she postponed seeing a specialist because she couldn’t afford it. Her mom had died from breast cancer. This woman worked every single day but when it came down to buying food and providing for her family she had to put her health to the side. I broke down in tears after hearing this lady’s story.” ~KW
Director Roderick Red of Red Squared Productions got on board when Kristian reached out to him after seeing some of his previous production work.
“Filming took about a year and during that time I learned more about the healthcare process, coverage gaps and I gained a better understanding of the Affordable Care Act. I’m very optimistic that the documentary will bring about change or at the least provoke conversation.” ~RR
The premiere took place at the Jackson Convention Complex in Jackson, Mississippi. There was a nice turnout and attendees were treated to hors d’oeuvres before the screening. The event concluded with a brief Q&A panel discussion that consisted of policy professionals, legislators and healthcare officials in the state. On a personal note I found the documentary to be very enlightening. Even with my education background in public health and working in the health field I was still very unaware of a lot of things regarding healthcare. I asked Kristian what were her hopes for the documentary and she had the following to say:
“I really wanted to put a face on the issue. I want this documentary to serve as an educational tool for constituents and individuals not educated on policy. I want them to know the decisions their legislators are making on their behalf. Healthcare shouldn’t be politicized; it means life or death for many people living with chronic illnesses. The process of making the documentary was exciting as well as eye opening and it gave me a new appreciation for the things I take for granted.”