The Lesters are a young family that live in Belfast, Tennessee. A small town south of Nashville. Ms. Lester works for a tax CPA office during the busy tax season and she and her husband own a small landscaping business. Together, they have three young children who love to play and bike on the property.
From 2019 until 2022, Ms. Lester could tell something was wrong with the family’s TennCare case. She repeatedly would find out that someone in the family lost their TennCare coverage and she would file multiple appeals and multiple applications only to never hear anything back. Sometimes somebody’s coverage would be reinstated but sometimes not.
In 2021, Ms. Lester’s middle child, Mason, ran outside to have a fun outing to the store with his dad but missed all four porch steps. The Lesters rushed Mason to the hospital and there they found out he did not have health insurance. The hospital helped get Mason on temporary coverage, but again, Ms. Lester could not understand how he had lost it. Ms. Lester tried to connect with TennCare and was told that she didn’t respond to request for information. She had never received anything from TennCare.
This is why, in 2022 when she learned about Tennessee Justice Center, she jumped at working with TJC. Her own health conditions make advocating for herself with agencies like TennCare very nerve wracking so she knew that having an advocacy organization in her corner might make all the difference.
After talking to TJC she learned about our lawsuit AMC v. Smith. She learned that many Tennesseans across the state have lost their TennCare coverage even if they are eligible simply because they didn’t receive a notice or didn’t get help to navigate the program. Putting all her fears aside, Ms. Lester agreed to have her son, Mason, be a plaintiff in the lawsuit and she would act as his next friend. Her husband, Mr. Lester, supported her every step of the way.
Ms. Lester continued her advocacy work by being featured in an NPR article discussing her experience. This advocacy work has put Ms. Lester out of her comfort zone but she is grateful for TJC’s help in making sure her family has coverage and wants to help other Tennesseans regain coverage as well. It is scary when you need healthcare, and you find out you or your child doesn't have health insurance. Ms. Lester hopes that no other mother experiences that feeling.
The Tennessee Justice Center is honored to recognize Ms. Kaitlyn Lester as a 2023 Mother of the Year for her dedication to her family and advocacy work for Tennesseans across the state.