Republican health care bill will hurt Auburn | GUEST OP

  • Friday, June 23, 2017 2:25pm
  • Opinion

Fourteen million. That’s how many of us will lose Medicaid if Republican leaders in the House and Senate push through health care repeal. I’m enrolled in Apple Health, Washington’s Medicaid program, and my health depends on our electeds in D.C. doing everything they can to stop health care repeal.

I’m looking at you, Rep. Dave Reichert. Voting no isn’t enough. I need you to tell your colleagues that the lives of their constituents are worth more than party politics.

There are many people like me, watching closely and feeling vulnerable. We won’t forget or forgive if we’re betrayed by the people elected to protect us.

My health care journey began when I lost my job after working for 33 years as an executive chef. I was 62 and without a steady paycheck. That was scary enough. Then I started getting short of breath from simple tasks, and one of my legs began to swell. I went from the GP to a cardiologist to the ER.

It turned out I had deep vein thrombosis – blood clots in my legs. The diagnosis saved my life. But it meant I had to take an injection that costs $1,100 a week, and I wound up with $6,000 in medical bills.

At the time, I thought I had insurance through COBRA, which cost $650 a month. I had enrolled after a complicated process but missed a payment by a few days, and the insurance company dropped me. When I found out, they wouldn’t reinstate me. I wasn’t profitable for them.

I’d never been uninsured before and had no idea what to do. Then I found out I might be eligible for Apple Health. I submitted my application one day and was enrolled the next.

Now I’m worried my health care will be taken away just as quickly. The repeal passed by the House ends funding for the Medicaid expansion that makes Apple Health available to me. It also sets per-person caps on Medicaid instead of paying for health care according to need.

That means rationed health care for the more than 70 million people, with 14 million of us pushed off Medicaid entirely, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The Senate Republicans also plan on ending Medicaid expansion and capping care – the only difference is how quickly they’ll cut.

It’s infuriating to think my life could be traded away so politicians can give a giant tax cut to corporations and billionaires.

Everything’s at stake for me. Without medication, pieces of the blood clots that form in my veins break off. They can travel to my lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism – which could be fatal.

With Apple Health, I’ve been regaining my health, volunteer at my church preparing free community meals, and hope to be able to get back to work. But I know how quickly luck can turn. I went from feeling pretty good to being in the ER the next week. That can happen to anyone, and we shouldn’t have to worry about Medicaid being there for us.

In May, Rep. Reichert felt enough pressure to reject health care repeal – after he’d voted to move it out of committee. But that’s not the final word. If the Senate jams its version through, repeal will be back on the House floor again.

I’m going to watch my congressman every step of the way. In May, he made us wait for his no vote until the last minute. He should stand up right now and reject cutting and capping Medicaid.

George Poston is a member of Washington Community Action Network, a statewide organization with 44,000 members fighting for racial, social, economic and gender justice. Poston lives in Auburn.

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