12-year-old cancer survivor lobbies Congress to keep Medicaid for kids

Natalia Ricabal overcame rare form of bone cancer

Tampa, Fla., - Plans to change the Affordable Care Act are officially on hold, as the Senate continue to debate the details, and await Senator John McCain's recovery from recent surgery.

One of the big hang-ups about the bill is the plan to shrink the Medicaid program; in Florida it's the largest insurer of children in the state.

Last week, a Tampa Bay Area family, who depended on Medicaid to save their girl, flew to Washington, D.C. to try to convince lawmakers to keep the Medicaid program for children strong and healthy.

Natalia Ricabal, now 12, recently overcame a rare and dangerous form of bone cancer called Ewing's sarcoma, and her family says they would have likely gone bankrupt if not for the help of the Medicaid program, which paid for much of Natalia's medical bills.

Natalia, of Lutz, was diagnosed in 2013, and required extensive stays and surgeries at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa over the past several years.

Last week Natalia, her mom Amy, and some staff members of the hospitals that helped save her life, joined nearly 50 other pediatric patients from across the U.S. at Capitol Hill to urge members of Congress to protect, not cut, children's Medicaid funding.

The trip to D.C. was part of the Children's Hospital Association's annual Family Advocacy Day.

"Medicaid is the largest insurer of children in the state of Florida," said Keri Eisenbeis, director of Government Relations for BayCare and St. Joseph's Children's Hospital. "Weakening or undermining this program through arbitrary caps and limitations, runs the risk of restricting care for kids across our community, state and country."

Natalia took that message, and her personal story, to one-on-one meetings with U.S. Representatives Gus Bilirakis, Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Dennis Ross, Darren Soto, Daniel Webster and Senator Bill Nelson; they also got a tour of Washington D.C. and attended a celebratory dinner to honor the children and their families. 

You can learn more about Natalia's journey by clicking HERE.

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