Dear Reps. Erik Paulsen, Tom Emmer and Jason Lewis:
Thank you so much for your news releases praising the passage of the American Health Care Act. This is the first time in my career that I have received political suicide notes from sitting members of Congress.
Congratulations for taking ownership of America’s health care crisis. As Rep. Emmer phrased it, “This is what President Trump campaigned on and what he asked for, and the House has delivered.”
Baltimore sage H.L. Mencken expressed similar sentiments in a different way: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”
You gave us what we asked for, good and hard.
You campaigned on a health plan that was at best obtuse and at worst nonexistent and were elected. Now we see why it took you so long to come up with an alternative plan to the Affordable Care Act: Creating a piece of legislation this cynical, this mean-spirited and this catastrophic to so many of society’s most vulnerable, while setting up the richest Americans for a massive tax break, really takes some sweat equity.
Congressmen, you have all shown an ability to be compassionate and have all pledged to be independent when needed.
Rep. Emmer, you recently told a cancer patient at a forum that politicians “want to make sure that you survive, that you thrive, just like everybody else.”
Rep. Lewis, you frequently criticized your party as a radio host, and before you were elected you told me: “I don’t put party ahead of principle.”
Rep. Paulsen, you have worked hard to end sex trafficking, showing concern for young women. Then you voted to turn back the clock to a time before the ACA when insurers could consider sexual assaults and even pregnancy preexisting conditions.
No matter what good policies you create going forward, and whether or not a bill even remotely like this one comes out of Congress, you will be remembered for this.
I hope you all have been reading your own Facebook pages, where the response to your votes is unbridled outrage.
In case you haven’t, maybe you should listen to some of your constituents. How about Nikki from Brooklyn Park. Rep. Paulsen, you represent her.
Nikki is currently employed, so she has insurance, but knows she could lose it any day. “I was a healthy 42-year-old walking into work one day when I had my first episode,” she said. Nikki was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which is incurable.
“I found out later that there was nothing I had done to cause the situation,” Nikki said. “The reality is, living with MS is extremely unpredictable. When I had my first episode, it was a struggle to walk. I think people should know we are all one illness away from losing coverage.”
Nikki, who asked that her last name not be used because she now fears being on the record with a preexisting condition, said she will eventually be unable to work. She fears loopholes for states and underbudgeted risk pools will make coverage unaffordable, leaving her and her children vulnerable.
“I understand the need to improve the ACA,” said Nikki. “But robbing people of coverage isn’t the way to do it.”
Or take Kisten Thompson, a pastor who is now covered but who will need to try the independent market when her position ends this year. Her insurance currently covers a daughter who is 13 weeks pregnant, a daughter who needs cleft palate treatment, and a 58-year-old husband who is insulin dependent.
“Oh, gosh, I’ve been terrified since last March” when the first bill failed, Thompson said. “At first I thought, we live in Minnesota and we take care of people. Now they are trying to end MNsure. It’s a huge concern.”
Then there is Mary Nehring, of Hastings. Rep. Lewis, you are responsible for her.
Nehring was diagnosed with MS in 2000, then six years ago developed lung cancer. “I have the double-whammy of preexisting conditions,” Nehring said.
“The first thing I wonder in the morning is whether I can get out of bed,” Nehring said. “The next is whether I can afford to go to the doctor.”
Nehring, 60, is still able to work, but she knows that could end before she qualifies for Medicare. “When the ACA was passed in 2010, it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders,” said Nehring. “If I couldn’t work, I had options. Now, if this becomes law, they can charge me five times as much as a young, healthy person”
“I guess I need to win the lottery,” Nehring said.
Full disclosure: I have a dog in this fight, a big dog. I have a hereditary preexisting condition with seven years to go before I qualify for Medicare. One study estimated the “surcharge” for my condition under this bill would be an additional $27,000 per year if I lost current coverage.
I guess we all need to win the lottery.
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