A Personal Battle, A Public Dream: Rico Reyes

Published On September 22, 2013 | Austin MD, September/October 2013

Rico Reyes

“It’s easy to be principled when you’re not the one who has to live with the consequences, when it’s not your wife who is going to die.”

By Lauren Bolado

A Harvard graduate, former Marine, loving husband and father to two young girls, Rico Reyes stands for his three pillars of “The American Dream”: public education, healthcare and middle class jobs. He proudly says that he will voice the realities of healthcare in America if elected to the Texas House of Representatives for District 50 in November of this year.

“We are too well off as a nation to not focus on three fundamentals: public education, healthcare and middle class jobs. In order to work that middle class job, you have to be educated and healthy,” Reyes says. An Austin area native, Reyes knows first-hand the importance of healthcare. His grandparents were reliant upon Medicaid and Medicare for their health care in their old age. The product of a humble upbringing, his grandfather, who suffered from hypertension and eventually had a stroke, found community programs to be their only saving grace. His mother, who worked for the state, suffered from colon cancer. Her good insurance through Blue Cross Blue Shield was a necessity to get the care she needed, but regardless, the bills came and Reyes then realized just how fortunate he and his family had been to live in this country and to possess quality health insurance. Then, in a life changing moment, Reyes was told his dear wife Natalie, who he met when he was just 12, had breast cancer. Reality set in when bills arrived that were the size of mortgage payments. Reyes realized that for some people who are diagnosed with serious health problems the reality is that they will no longer be able to fund their children’s college tuition because all their savings are gone. For others, taking care of elderly parents is no longer feasible. For the unfortunate people with no savings and no health insurance, their stories don’t always have a happy ending.

“It’s easy to be principled when you’re not the one who has to live with the consequences, when it’s not your wife who is going to die, when it’s not you who is facing eternity and realize you are not going to be there to raise your children, or to watch your child suffer and fade away because a politician didn’t accept federal funding,” Reyes says.

Reyes and his family were lucky enough to have healthcare and savings during his wife’s treatment. Even moreso, the family was fortunate that the cancer treatment was successful and his wife is in good health. Reyes notes that their fight with cancer was tough at times, but their prayers were answered, and he decided at that point that he wanted to help other families in similar situations and carry their message to whoever will listen at the capitol. “It made me so aware of the haves and have nots in this world,” Reyes says, reflecting on seeing families in tears, knowing their reality was grim. “I know that that’s the way the system works. And I know they would be overwhelmed if we just gave away healthcare for free. But this experience brought into sharp focus for me the need for healthcare for everyone.”

With such a complicated system, there is no easy way to solve our nation’s healthcare problems. Reyes believes some simple steps that will point us in the right direction include promoting preventative care, equal opportunities for quality education and properly funding programs such as CHIP, Medicaid and Medicare.

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