A vote on the American Health Care Act is expected today. Call your Representative and urge their no vote on this bill. Find them here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
By Molly Toth, Advocacy & Special Projects Coordinator
It was the summer of 2015, Fourth of July weekend. I had been away on a camping trip, deep in central Ohio with no cell service to speak of. I was grateful for the opportunity to be disconnected coming off the heels of a big budget fight that had me glued to a screen for months.
I was blissfully unaware of the chaos unfolding two hours away. It wasn’t until I drove out of the campsite to an area with cell reception that I felt my phone buzz and buzz and buzz with dozens of missed calls and text messages, all from my parents. Something was wrong.
With my hands trembling, I called my mother from the parking lot of a roadside attraction. She answered on the first ring. It was my brother. When I called my mother, she told me the news. My then 22-year old brother had had an aortic aneurysm.
He arrived at the hospital just as the area’s top heart surgeon had scrubbed in for his shift. There were no waiting lines in the ER waiting room. Within 20 minutes, they had my brother on the operating table in a series of surgeries that lasted well into the night.
The 2 hour drive home felt like the longest drive of my life. I didn’t listen to the radio. I drove slowly and deliberately in complete silence.
Let me tell you what it is like to nearly lose a 22 year old to a freak genetic anomaly that normally kills someone three times his age. It is beyond devastating—it is all-consuming. Medical students were paraded into the room — how does this happen to someone so young? What went wrong? How did they save him? His case study is now documented in text books.
And your worry extends beyond “will my brother live?” to this most trivial thought: “how will we pay for this?” The moment that thought crossed my mind my worry grew and it felt so selfish, to be thinking of dollar signs when my brother had 18 tubes coming out of his young body. Who thinks of dollar signs at such a time? The answer in America: Everyone.
My brother was uninsured. Our parents, both retired, were not eligible to keep my brother and me on their plans. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, he walked out of the hospital after 17 days with no medical debt. His bill was upwards of a million dollars. Hospital staff signed him up for Medicaid, which our Governor expanded in 2013. The hospital waived the remaining balance.
Without the ACA, my brother’s life would be much different. He would likely not have finished his degree, because he would have had to go to work as soon as he was reasonably able to begin paying down his medical debt. His credit would likely have been ruined. He would likely be saddled with debt until the day he dies. My parents would likely have had to go back to work. I know I would have devoted every extra penny from my own paychecks to help him.
This is what the ACA, however imperfect, does for families. This is what the Medicaid expansion was meant to do: save us from financial disaster.
Today, Congress will take a vote to strip families of that saving grace. The vote on the American Health Care Act, also known as Trumpcare, which was deemed so bad in its first iteration that it wasn’t even brought to the floor for a vote, will ruin families, destroy futures, and kill people who can’t afford care.
Trumpcare 2.0 is by all accounts quite similar to the version introduced several weeks ago: it includes cuts to Medicaid—the program that saved my brother’s life—and replaced subsidies that make insurance affordable, replacing them with meager tax credits.
Trumpcare allows insurance companies to charge people more for pre-existing conditions. Under this bill, pre-existing conditions can include everything from diabetes to cancer to asthma. Other pre-existing conditions that can exempt you from affordable coverage include: having had a C-section, having been a victim of sexual assault, having suffered postpartum depression, and having been a victim of domestic violence. Considering one in three births are delivered by C-section, every 98 seconds someone in America is sexually assaulted, and there are 10 million domestic violence victims annually, this amounts to wholesale gender discrimination.
The bill is being moved forward in darkness. It was not posted publicly early enough for the public to read it, or for the Congressional Budget Office to score it. The CBO determines how much the bill will cost the nation, how many people would gain or lose insurance, and how high costs could go for patients, hospitals, and insurance companies. The older version would have resulted in at least 24 million fewer people having health insurance, and premiums increasing by thousands of dollars for some.
That is why I am urging you to call your Representatives and ask them to oppose this bill. Too many families like my own—like yours—could suffer huge financial losses, and even worse, lose loved ones under this bill. Find your Representative’s contact information here. Call them today. Tell them to vote against the American Health Care Act.