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The Next Time You Question Who the AHCA Will Really Hurt, Please Remember My Son

Image Source: Sarah Cottrell

By now, the news has reached us all: On Thursday, Republican lawmakers passed a new version of the American Health Care Act through the House that promises to repeal and replace Obamacare as we know it. It was a move that sent shockwaves through the country within minutes, thanks to several of its provisions which threaten to strip many Americans of their coverage.

And it’s sent shockwaves through my home, too.

The new bill has been shopped around Washington as a way to solve all our healthcare problems once and for all; a new and better plan that will finally make healthcare “affordable” again to millions of Americans. And at first listen, I’ll admit that all sounds pretty marvelous — until you read the fine print. Until you realize that the AHCA plans to reinstate some pretty controversial elements, including pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps.

In the process, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the new bill would cut 24 million Americans off from health insurance. Americans just like me. And maybe even Americans just like you.

The words “pre-existing conditions” have struck fear in my heart for the last seven years, as I’ve fought to keep my oldest son on insurance that will give him access to a life-saving drug — one that quite literally keeps him alive. He was born with hemophilia, a genetic mutation that just happens to be more expensive to treat over a lifetime than most cancers, and even AIDS/HIV.

If we lost our insurance now — insurance that we thankfully receive through my job — we would have to come up with somewhere in the neighborhood of $10-20k a month to cover not just his drugs, but also his other medical-related expenses. As it is, I am already paying thousands a month just to cover his co-pays. But even if we are able to keep him on our insurance under the AHCA, lifetime caps would put a strict limit on how much access to health coverage he could get; and when we lose that, finding a new insurance package would be next to impossible thanks to the lengthy list of “pre-existing conditions” that would now apply to us.

Because it’s not just about my son’s hemophilia. What also has me freaking out is that apparently, the postpartum depression I once sought treatment for would also be considered a pre-existing condition.

After my son was born and we learned of his diagnosis, what I thought was regular old “baby blues” morphed into something else; something I couldn’t control. I was sad all the time, and I had irrational thoughts and dreams of hurting myself or my child. In one awful episode, I awoke in a sweaty panic after dreaming that my baby and I were drowning in the middle of the ocean. It was surreal and frightening and I knew that I needed help.

And so, wanting desperately to be a good mother and enjoy my new baby, I sought treatment. I took a prescribed daily dosage of Xanax; I attended talk therapy; and in time, I was better. But according to the ACHA, my postpartum depression — something that affects approximately 900,000 women a year — would likely prevent me from getting access to decent and affordable health coverage.

So would my two C-sections, the latest of which I had just weeks ago. In both cases I tried for a natural birth, but as it turned out, I was not a good candidate. In one case, doctors told me that natural childbirth could have killed both me and my baby. And I’m far from alone; the CDC estimates that 32% of all live births in the U.S. each year are via C-section, for similar reasons.

Still, that’s two strikes against me, according to this new plan. Two strikes for me, and one for my child.

Image Source: Sarah Cottrell

It’s pretty simple, really: If passed through the Senate, the federal government will have paved the way for women like me and kids like my son to lose access to affordable health coverage. And contemplating the possibility of that future is devastating. My son’s life could literally be put in jeopardy if I could no longer afford his medicine, and I may end up with premiums so high thanks to basic maternity care that health coverage would be out of reach for me, too.

Stories like mine are not uncommon, though; I am not a part of the fringe, or one of the unfortunate few they’ll later say “fell through the cracks.” As it stands now, this plan threatens to hurt millions of families, and in particular, millions of women everywhere.

I understand that the Affordable Care Act is not perfect … But what I do not understand is how politicians can ignore the needs of the very people they serve in such an egregious and callous way.
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It’s no wonder why so many women are coming out in droves, protesting the fact that basic women’s healthcare is now being treated as a reason for insurance companies to turn them away — simply by making their premiums so high they cannot afford them. Since when did we elect officials to go to Washington and work for the benefit of for-profit companies, and not for our best interests? And if Republicans win this fight to dismantle the Affordable Care Act by rushing through a replacement that’s harmful to so many … what then? How do I explain to my son that we can’t get reliable access to the very medicine that keeps him from bleeding to death?

I understand that the Affordable Care Act is not perfect, and I understand that with every new administration there are huge shifts in our economic and social landscapes that help shape the future of our country to (hopefully) be a better place. But what I do not understand — what I cannot for the life of me comprehend, no matter how hard I try — is how politicians can ignore the needs of the very people they serve in such an egregious and callous way. We need to be passing bills and policies that protect women and children and families, and not corporate interests, period. There is far too much at stake to look the other way.

If you feel the same as I do, and want to voice concerns over the new bill that the Senate is now considering you can contact your Senator here.

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