By Jeff Wagner

MINNETONKA, Minn. (WCCO) — Ziggy runs around with energy and excitement of your average 5-year-old, but his mother Emily Barbero knows that normalcy comes with help after her son was born with a brain disorder called encephalopathy.

“He didn’t know each day if he was going to get a MRI, a blood draw or physical therapy or what,” she said, explaining how much of his early life was spent in the hospital.

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Employer insurance pays for part of Ziggy’s medical expenses but Barbero said it was capped.

Emily Barbero and Ziggy (credit: CBS)

She said Medicaid was their saving grace, opening the door to services, therapies, and the people necessary to help Ziggy get back on track integrating with kids his age.

Some of that treatment happens at St. David’s Center for Child and Family Development in Minnetonka, where a coalition named “This is Medicaid” hosted an event to highlight how President Donald Trump’s budget proposal would negatively affect more than a million Minnesotans relying on the federal program.

The proposal would cut hundreds of billions of dollars to Medicaid over the next decade. Roughly one in five Minnesotans relies on the program for medical treatment or care.

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Sen. Tina Smith was at the event, vying to fight the proposal when she returns to Washington, D.C.

“What the president’s plan would do is to basically put caps on the amount of money that Medicaid spends, but of course that doesn’t control costs. All that does is control, it limits the care that people are gonna get,” Sen. Smith said.

She also worries that taxpayers might be left footing the bill for the programs that would lose funding. She plans to share the stories she heard from families like Barbero’s with other lawmakers with hopes they’ll realize how just how deep the proposed cuts would run.

“Help us facilitate these conversations and not start to label who is deserving and who isn’t deserving,” said Barbero.

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In Minnesota, Medicaid pays for about 43 percent of child births and covers half of nursing home residents.

Jeff Wagner