A couple of years ago my life changed irrevocably. I walked into a doctor’s office as a healthy, 40-year-old woman with a nagging cough, and walked out as a stage 4 cancer patient.
I spent the year of 2017 fighting for my life, while fighting for my health care. I went to chemotherapy appointments and then protests. I went to radiation treatments and then to rallies.
While my body was struggling, my focus was clear. Some 130 million Americans have pre-existing conditions (nearly 2.4 million Coloradans), and we’re all vulnerable without the protections of the Affordable Care Act. No insurance company in their right mind would cover me — it cost about a million dollars to keep me alive in 2017. But here I am, in remission, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Here I am, in Denver, also thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
At the end of last year, storm clouds were gathering on the horizon as an obscure court case worked its way through the system.
This case, Texas vs. Azar, is an arrow aimed at the heart of the ACA. I knew if the pre-existing conditions protections were struck down, I would be immediately at risk. There is no insurance Plan B for me: I’m single, self-employed, too old for my parents’ insurance and too young for Medicare.
So, last year I considered my options (four states at the time had protections on the state level for people like me), and took a leap of faith, moving to Denver.
A city I had been to only twice in my life: in 2008 for a week for the Democratic National Convention, and one day in 2018 on the national Protect Our Care health care bus tour.
I am so lucky to be alive, to be here now, and to have the flexibility through my work to live wherever I need to in order to keep my care. Most people can’t live like this, and they shouldn’t have to.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act, H.R. 986 (116). This bill helps shore up the ACA from ongoing attacks by the Trump administration by tightening rules on junk insurance.
This is personal for me, because I used to have junk insurance before the ACA. If I still had that policy, today I would be either bankrupt or dead.
The Senate should move forward on this legislation, as opposed to the sham bill put forth by Republicans in the Senate (S.1125 – Protect Act). Just like every GOP plan released in 2017, the fine print leaves us vulnerable.
While we would be able to buy a policy on paper, insurance companies could offer us junk insurance which doesn’t cover expensive treatments we need. omen could be charged more than men again, annual and lifetime limits would be allowed again. It would be a nightmare for people like me.
However, our Sen. Cory Gardner can’t even be bothered to sign onto this fig leaf of a bill. He has voted seven times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and shows no signs of remorse or caring for those of us that need health insurance to survive.
We know this threat is not going away. Just two years ago, the House of Representatives voted to take away healthcare from millions of Americans by voting for the American Health Care Act (AHCA).
The bill ultimately failed, but the Trump administration and GOP persist in their campaign to eviscerate our health care system through the executive and judicial branches.
Next year we will have the opportunity to hold accountable the politicians who have voted to take away our care, and we can show them what repeal and replace feels like.
Laura Packard is a stage 4 cancer survivor, national co-chair of Health Care Voter, and founder of Voices of Health Care, a non-profit focused on organizing adults with serious medical conditions. She is a small business owner in Denver.
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