This month is the one-year anniversary of when the dangerous GOP Health Care Repeal Act (aka TrumpCare) passed the House of Representatives. Thanks to the voices of health care advocates from across the country, the bill ultimately failed in the Senate – but the threat of a GOP health care repeal is still alive.

Laura Packard is a health care advocate and Co-Chair of Health Care Voter based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

As well as being a political anniversary, May also holds personal meaning for me, because last year it was the month of my first chemo treatment.

Today I am a cancer survivor. I am also a woman. According to the 217 Republicans who voted for the bill, I deserve a lifetime of higher costs and more restrictions to lifesaving and necessary health care because I was sick and because I am a woman. 

If the Repeal Bill had passed, major sections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka ObamaCare) would have been repealed. Millions of Americans would have faced higher hurdles when they needed to access health care – including me.

Just over a year ago I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The treatments I received through the Affordable Care Act saved my life. The ACA prevented insurers from dropping people like me from any coverage, pricing it out of reach for people with serious medical conditions, or putting annual or lifetime limits on that coverage.

I’m a small business owner and so there is no insurance Plan B for me. If I cannot get coverage on the individual market, I cannot get insurance coverage at all. I am too young to be eligible for Medicare, and make too much money to be eligible for Medicaid. However, my treatment last year cost around a million dollars. I don’t have the money to pay that out of pocket, and almost all Americans could say the same.

Last year’s Health Care repeal bill was really just a tax break for millionaires, billionaires and wealthy corporations, paid for by the rest of us. If the GOP had their way, here’s what would have happened: the wealthiest one percent of Americans would have become even wealthier, while 23 million Americans would have lost their health insurance. Medicaid would have been cut by over $800 billion dollars.

In a world without protections for people with pre-existing conditions, I don’t know that I would be able to get health insurance at any price. That bill would not only have attacked my health care because of my pre-existing condition as a cancer survivor – it would have also punished me for being a woman.

Under the Republican plan, access to necessary and lifesaving women’s health care would have been cut. Health issues from ‘heavy periods’ to being a survivor of sexual assault could be labeled as pre-existing conditions – and insurers could charge women more than men for health insurance in general.

Last year, we fought back. We rallied. We protested. We called our lawmakers’ offices. But they didn’t listen.

President Trump blocked me on Twitter, Senator Heller did nothing as I was thrown out of his public forum for daring to ask about health care. But we stood strong and we stopped their votes on these dangerous pieces of legislation, again and again.

In the last year since this bill passed the US House, Republican attacks on our care have only continued. They have proposed new short-term ‘junk’ insurance plans (similar to ones I once relied upon!) that would have prevented patients from accessing essential health services. The disastrous TrumpTax passed in December will leave 13 million more Americans uninsured.

The Republican Party has not stopped threatening our health care and threatening our lives, even threatening yet another round of repeal efforts later this month. So it’s critical now that we don’t give up – we must keep our voices loud and tell our stories again and again.

If you’re in the US, sign the pledge to become a Health Care Voter, and pledge to hold our lawmakers accountable. Health care should be a right, not a privilege — and we will never stop fighting for it. Our lives depend on it.

Follow Laura on Twitter: @lpackard

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Category: Health
Tagged with: cancer    Donald Trump    Health Care    health insurance    Republican Party    US politics    women's health