I remember the day in 2013 when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) made health insurance available to everyone. I had been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer just the year before, was still able to work, but terrified that if I lost my job and my insurance I would not be able to get insurance, not be able to afford my treatments, and then would have no choice but to stop treatment, so would simply die. At that point I was living in a world where a pre-existing condition like cancer meant no insurance company would even talk to me. I had personally experienced insurance denial, once being denied health insurance for having seen a counselor one time in the prior twelve-month period (I'm not kidding).
And I'd seen the effect of insurance denial on others. A dear friend had hepatitis he'd somehow gotten as a kid, and the only way he could get insurance was through a state high-risk insurance pool (not every state had these). He spent most of his monthly income on that insurance, and in the end that exorbitantly-priced insurance refused to cover the liver transplant he desperately needed. He was only able to stay alive because his medical team managed to somehow get him coverage via Medicare.
I'd also witnessed, while working as a temporary worker at a insurance company, insurance agents boasting that they'd denied insurance to various applicants, a man who had just broken his leg, a woman who had applied for insurance just after becoming pregnant. Agents would brag they'd cut costs for the company by putting a rider on parts of an applicant's body, such as a man's heart, since he'd previously had a heart attack. A rider meant nothing regarding the man's heart would be covered by the policy (tests, needed medications, etc.), guaranteeing the policy holder would not be able to afford medical care for his heart condition. Denial of insurance coverage was that easy, and people suffered and died because of it.
So when I was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer I was terrified of the moment where I would no longer be able to work and so would lose my work-based health insurance. Because of my terminal status, I would be able to get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), although it wouldn't be much, but I would not be eligible for Medicare until two years after receiving SSDI - this rule is still in place. Cancer care is expensive, although all medical care is expensive nowadays. My current treatments cost roughly $27,000 per treatment and I receive those treatments every three weeks. A two-year waiting period for Medicare would mean those costs would lead to me losing my house and all my savings, and I'd likely be forced to stop treatment. And because there were no protections for those with pre-existing conditions at the time, after losing my job-related health insurance, I would not be able to get other health insurance to help cover the cost of my too-high-priced treatments.
That changed when the ACA was passed and health insurance was provided via the federal exchange. One of main tenets of the ACA legislation is that health insurance companies can't refuse to cover you or charge you more just because you have a pre-existing condition. With this new law in place, I would be able to get health insurance and that gave me great comfort. And if you're questioning how insurance companies are faring in the world of ACA, they continue to see record profits. As the saying goes, the house always wins.
I do know that Trump recently signed an executive order stating protections for pre-existing conditions, however, this is largely symbolic. The only real protection in existence at this point is the current legislation in place via the ACA.
Now to what is keeping me up at night. With the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Trump administration is pushing yet another Supreme Count nominee through, and this one (Amy Coney Barrett) is on record as supporting the removal of the ACA and its protections for those of us with pre-existing conditions. If this nominee is confirmed she would be in place to hear and decide a new lawsuit against the ACA led by Texas and supported by the Trump administration coming before the Supreme Court on November 10.
The Supreme Court confirmation hearings start on October 12, 2020.
Right now it appears most Republican Senators will vote in support of this nominee, but if people speak up, this might change. The only other time this situation has happened was during President Lincoln's administration. Supreme Court Chief Justice Taney died on October 12, 1864 and Lincoln chose to wait until after the election to put forth his Supreme Court nominee. Lincoln did this in order to honor the voice of the people who were speaking through the democratic process of voting. In the same way, this is an election year and people are voting right now. As in 1864, a Supreme Court nominee should not be put forward until after votes have been counted and our voice has been heard. Certainly, this was the popularly held view of Republicans voiced in 2015, another election year. When Merrick Garland was put forward as a Supreme Court nominee early in 2015, Republicans in the Senate fought and delayed that nomination until after the election.
No matter what your own political leanings, all of this is of vital importance. The voice of voters in this election need to be honored, and those with pre-existing conditions need to be protected.
So I'm asking you for a favor. I do not have a Senator since I live in Washington, DC (think taxation without representation). But you do. I am hoping you would be willing to take 10 minutes to find your Senators' contact information and copy and paste the below email to send to those Senators. I'm not sure I've had a decent nights' sleep since 2015, but this latest situation has me up at night even more. And you'd be helping millions of others as well. Everyone ends up with a pre-existing condition, thanks to age, and in this pandemic millions more are entering the world of pre-existing conditions due to the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the heart, brain and lungs.
Whatever, you decide to do, thank you so much for reading this. It's a scary time for anyone with a health condition. I'm just hoping we don't go back to the world of being denied insurance for having seen a counselor one time in the last year, for having a broken a leg, or for having had a heart attack. That was a cruel and scary world to live in, and we need to keep protections in place for anyone with a pre-existing condition. Thank you.
Contacting Your Senator
This is where you can find Information on how to contact your senator.
Letter to Send to Your Senator
With just weeks until the 2020 election, the Trump administration is rushing to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court nominee, while the people of America are in the middle of voting. Ms. Coney Barrett supports the aim of ending the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the health and economic security it provides to millions of people across the country.
If Ms Coney Barrett is confirmed, she would
be seated in time to participate in oral arguments in the Health Care
Repeal Lawsuit (California v. Texas) the Trump administration is backing, seeking to invalidate the Affordable Care Act.
The protection of legislation that ensures coverage of pre-existing conditions, especially in this time of a pandemic, is of vital importance to me and my family. I urge you to reject this nomination and wait until after the current election to consider any other Supreme Court nominees.
Thank you for you time.