When I learned that the Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act later this year, I thought of my parents immediately. My parents were reluctant to sign up for Obamacare. In fact, for as long as I can remember, my parents, a preschool teacher and self-employed tile installer, didn’t even have health insurance. My father is a conservative Republican and my mother voted the same way. Because of this, neither one of them wanted to get health insurance through the government program created by President Obama.
But thank God they signed up, even if it was just to avoid the penalty. Because they got insurance, my family was able to make the most of the final days with my mother after she suffered an aneurysm, instead of agonizing as the bills piled up.
My mother was at work at the preschool when it happened. It quickly became clear the aneurysm was very severe, so she was rushed to the neuro-intensive care unit at the nearby hospital, where doctors performed multiple surgeries and procedures in order to decrease the amount of blood on her brain and reduce the swelling. The doctors provided the highest level of care to her until my father made the difficult decision to take her off life support. It was a hard time for my family, and for the many others who loved my mother.
As you can imagine, the cost of the medical care my mother received was very high. Without insurance, the cost of my mother’s hospitalization would have been around $500,000. Thankfully, my parents had made the last-minute decision to enroll in the ACA. Because they were covered by the ACA, my parents avoided the steep medical bills that dragged them down for years when my mom got sick for the first time.
Back in 1996 when my parents were uninsured, my mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It took years for my parents to pay off the bills that came while my mother was in the hospital. Those bills made it difficult for my parents to pay the mortgage, buy vehicles, put gas in the car, keep food on the table, and cover the many other expenses that families have. Sending me and my siblings to college was out of the question because the money just wasn’t there. Those bills made all of our lives much more difficult and put a lot of stress on my parents — just because my mother had gotten sick, through no fault of her own.
I lived through the stress my parents felt due to lack of health insurance and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. But if President Trump gets his way and the courts repeal the ACA, tens of thousands of Wisconsinites would be stripped of their health insurance. Premiums would go up, protections for people with pre-existing conditions would end and seniors would be forced to pay more for prescription drugs. The Trump administration itself admitted in court that ACA repeal could lead to “chaos” in our healthcare system.
Folks with pre-existing conditions could be particularly vulnerable. If Trump gets his way, 2.4 million Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions could lose protections. These are our friends, our neighbors, the people we see at church. It’s unacceptable.
So when Trump talks about how we need to get rid of the ACA, I think about the people all across Wisconsin and around the country who will be put at risk. Some are Democrats and some are Republicans, but disease doesn’t know if you have a D or an R next to your name — it doesn’t care about politics.
Thank God my parents signed up for the ACA despite disagreeing with Obama’s policies. Because they got insurance, my family was able to make the most of the final days with my mother, instead of agonizing as the bills piled up. But if Trump gets his way and overturns the ACA, it would mean utter chaos — for our healthcare system and our lives. We deserve so much better.