Medicaid Matters: Chauntal’s Story

Life after a devastating car crash

Just months after her 24th birthday, Chauntal Lewis was driving away from a friend’s house one morning when a semi-truck slammed into her car. She lost her left hand on impact and was rushed to a UCLA hospital, where surgeons tried for several hours to reattach her hand. “That day my life changed forever,” she reflects. “The doctor wept when she gave me the news that they were unsuccessful.”

After the terrible accident, Chauntal was grateful to be alive  but faced many challenges during her recovery. She was  surprised and thankful to learn she qualified for  Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program).

At the time, Chauntal was pursuing a professional acting career in Los Angeles. She had always been in excellent health and, like most young adults, she assumed that would continue. She had recently aged out of eligibility through her parents’ coverage and had few affordable options for health insurance. As a result, on the day of that terrible accident, she arrived at the hospital gravely injured and uninsured.

As devastating as it was to lose her hand, Chauntal woke up after surgery grateful just to be alive. She dug deep for inner strength and continued pursuing her dreams with, she says, “the gift of perspective.”

But along the way, Chauntal faced serious struggles – physical, emotional, and financial.

From her first day in the hospital, the medical bills began piling up. Her treatment journey since the accident required several surgeries, hundreds of follow-up appointments, and numerous medications.

Medi-Cal stood in the gap for Chauntal  when no other insurer would accept her.Without health insurance, Chauntal faced huge medical bills that she could not pay. Nor could she find a health insurance plan that would accept her. After the failure of a lawsuit to recover her medical costs, the debt collectors kept calling.

In the middle of this discouragement, Chauntal was surprised and thankful to learn she qualified for Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program) which paid almost all of her medical bills dating back to her initial hospital stay after the accident. Medi-Cal coverage also allowed Chauntal to get follow-up surgery that she desperately needed to treat nerve damage in her left arm that gave her nearly constant pain.

“At that time, I had no other choice” than to enroll in Medi-Cal, she says. “No one else would accept me. Without Medi-Cal, I didn’t know if there was any other option to get that surgery, which was just life-changing.”

In the years since the accident, Chauntal has resumed her acting career, taken up marathon running, deepened her yoga practice, and developed a thriving business as a celebrity makeup artist. “Makeup artistry is so rewarding,” she says, “I just love making women feel beautiful.” Combined with a recurring role on the TV show General Hospital, and with running and yoga to stay balanced, life, she says, is good.

Medicaid stood in the gap for Chauntal while she rebuilt her life at a very vulnerable time.

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