How The Graham-Cassidy Healthcare Bill Could Kill Me And Possibly Millions
I am a registered Republican. I have been active in the workplace since 1988, and for most of my adult life, I’ve paid for my own health insurance. After a rebellious childhood prompted by my parents’ divorce, I dropped out of high school in Cleveland and arrived in South Florida at 15 years of age. I found employment at a major farm and was hired as a forklift operator, working 80 hours a week.
I immediately noticed how the salesman operated and wanted the same financial success. I started by learning every commodity I was loading, the weight, pack type, how many per case, and would ask how the price was determined. The very next year I and a family member started a brokerage business and my very first account was Kraft Foods.
Within my first two years in the industry, I had found my niche and excelled at a furious pace. I worked 7 days a week and answered our phones personally 24 hours a day. This set us apart from the rest of the competition and the business grew and expanded rapidly. I could now sit down with the very people that said I would amount to nothing and pick up their tab, holding my head high. I paid my dues, through hard work and determination every step of the way.
Then at 22, I was diagnosed with a disease called IgA Nephropathy.
IgA nephropathy is the most common glomerulonephritis worldwide. acute inflammation of the kidney, typically caused by an immune response. Primary IgA nephropathy is characterized by deposition of the IgA antibody in the glomerulus.  HSP presents with a characteristic purpuric skin rash, arthritis, and abdominal pain and occurs more commonly in young adults (16–35 years old). HSP is associated with a more benign prognosis than IgA nephropathy. In IgA nephropathy there is a slow progression to chronic kidney failure in 25–30% of cases during a period of 20 years.
At 21, I started to feel significant abdominal pain. When I would catch a cold, it was always extreme; high fever, pain, and passing visible blood in my urine.
Stage 1: Slightly diminished function; kidney damage with normal or relatively high GFR and persistent albuminuria.
Stage 2: Mild reduction in GFR with kidney damage.
Stage 3: Moderate reduction in GFR
This is when noticeable physical manifestations occurred, the most significant being high blood pressure. A normal reading should be around 120/80 and I was at approximately 140/95 at this point. I began to take medication to help control my blood pressure.
Stage 4: Severe reduction in GFR, preparation for renal replacement therapy.
I started to feel really tired, with persistent lower back pain, and my blood pressure even with medication was approximately 165/100, which put me at severe risk for a stroke.
Stage 5: Established kidney failure, permanent renal replacement therapy, or end-stage kidney disease.
This is where I am. At the age of 46, I have reached stage 5 end-stage renal failure. I have around 5% kidney function and was required to have surgery to insert a catheter in my abdomen for dialysis. I am currently on peritoneal dialysis, which means I have to hook myself up to a machine that pumps fluid into my peritoneal area and fills and dwells for 6 stages. This process from start to finish is approximately 8–9 hours every day.
My evenings are now limited to what I can and can not do physically. I need to hook up to my machine as early as possible and am often in extreme pain. This does not allow me to sleep, so if I hook up at 7:30 p.m. for example, I am attached and in my bed till at least 3:30 a.m. This inhibits my ability to spend time with my youngest child, who is 14. As you can imagine he may want to see a movie, or go to a friend’s house and I am unable to accommodate during these times. This is really the hardest part. My son never complains, but he also never asks. He doesn’t even bring these topics up because he knows I can not and this is heartbreaking.
I do not write this for sympathy. I simply need you to know what I personally go through because of a condition I have no control over. I’ve worked hard my whole life to not be a burden, to be able to contribute to my family and my community. Like millions of people in this country, this is just the hand I was dealt. Why should I be punished for having the misfortune of being sick?
Our Healthcare System Is Broken
I was, and always have been, a self-employed worker, so when I was diagnosed, I was not afforded healthcare by any corporation or entity. I have always had to pay for my own insurance. Before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often shortened to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or nicknamed Obamacare, I was not able to attain healthcare for two reasons:
Then Obamacare came along. After 20 years, I was overjoyed because not only could I get coverage, but I would be able to maintain and manage my condition. I remember being so excited to get on the website and pay for my coverage, even though I did not qualify for any of the credits as my income was too high. I opted for the best possible coverage they offered, picked up the phone, and called my doctor, eager to schedule appointments so we could start the process for a kidney transplant.
As I began to make calls, I continued to hear the same phrase: “We do not accept any coverage from the Obamacare website.” Wait, was I hearing this correctly? And the short answer was yes. While my plan would cover a few office visits or an emergency room visit, the surgery for the catheter needed for dialysis and the cost of the drugs was out of pocket.
As you can imagine, I was angry. Why did my President that I had voted for twice lie to me? I had been promised I could keep my doctor and that it would cover my medical costs. What was going on?
The fault apparently, at least in my home state of Florida, was not with Obamacare. It was the insurance companies and the GOP, banding together to obstruct the law, undercut exchanges, and keep their fingers crossed that things would go back to where they were before this Obamacare went into effect.
At this point I was starting to think of my children. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to go out and pay a fortune for a life insurance policy so when I did die, they would at least be taken care of? Or should I just continue to work and make as much money as possible before the disease killed me? I had honestly given up all hope and went into major depression, in tears and laying awake for days on end wondering how this would all play out.
As the 2016 election neared, I was only concerned with one thing. Who was going to either fix or make better the current healthcare system? My life was hanging in the balance and it seemed so much more important than politics or party.
One day, while walking my dog, my neighbor saw me and asked why I was looking so sad. I explained that if the wrong party was elected it was almost certain Obamacare would be repealed and I’d face a future (or lack thereof) without healthcare.
Miraculously, my neighbor was a registered agent and was able to help me get coverage through a private insurer. He called me repeatedly to make sure of certain things, and once he had all my information, my neighbor sent me a proposal for a PPO that was cheaper than any insurance quotes I had received prior to Obamacare.
I literally broke down in tears. I finally had a plan that not only had all the coverage I needed, but was affordable. I am now on dialysis, and I am on the path to getting a kidney transplant at the Cleveland Clinic, a world renowned leader in transplants.
But I’m well aware that this is a stroke of luck. A fluke. And at any moment, if I lose my coverage, I’ll be no better off than the other 12 million people that rely on the ACA. Most terminally ill patients in America don’t happen to have an insurance agent willing to bend over backward to save their lives. They have only this imperfect healthcare system, one the GOP seems intent on using as a political pawn to pander to their base. In the meantime, their sick constituents lay waiting, hoping for another election to turn the tide before they run out of time.
Another Day, Another Flavor Of Repeal And Replace
As a registered Republican, I have been hearing “we will repeal and replace with something great” for the better part of a decade. I don’t believe that anymore, and I am not ashamed to say I’ve pulled the lever more than once for the Democratic nominee because of it. And I’ve watched as election after election, we’ve been lied to and manipulated into believing someone would fix our broken healthcare system.
After Trump’s election, the GOP controlled Congress had their first opportunity to keep that promise. The AHCA (American Healthcare Act) in the House and BCRA (Better Care Reconciliation Act) in the Senate were both scored by the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) as abysmal with over 20 million to be uninsured over 10 years for both. Analysis indicated the legislation served more as a tax break for the wealthy than a healthcare bill. National polls have shown they were the most unpopular pieces of legislation in recent memory, without majority support in any state in the country. Approval ratings varied between 12–38% and high-profile protests swamped town halls and created chaos in the Capitol. We as Americans have watched children and elderly literally ripped out of their chairs as they fighting for their lives. I am one of those people.
I’m well aware the risk I face if my private insurance opts to no longer cover my healthcare costs. Without the influential opposition of John McCain, the GOP would certainly have repealed Obamacare months ago, and they’re poised to do it again. These same Republicans want to try to shove the next horrible piece of legislation, the Graham-Cassidy bill, down our throats simply because our current President and his base are hell-bent on rolling back anything that bears President Obama’s name.
To make matters worse, this newest version of repeal and replace is worse than the previous flavors. In a nutshell, Graham-Cassidy does the following:
1: Removes cost control measures, which will allow insurers (or states) to price people with preexisting conditions out of the ability to obtain healthcare insurance.
Under #GrahamCassidy insurers can charge those w/pre-exist condit. whopping bills https://t.co/DGm5jEcM8X
2: Removes subsidies provided to help low and middle-income families afford healthcare coverage.
3: Removes the Medicaid expansion program that covered some of the poorest populations, mostly children and elderly.
4: Takes money from 30 states who implemented the Medicaid expansion and dispersed it among all 50.
In return, Graham-Cassidy gives states a bundle of money and lets them spend it on what they want. Yes, you heard that right. And in the end, everyone gets less money and less coverage overall. For terminally ill folks or patients like me, waiting for transplants, hoping our state government will feel compassionate enough to extend us affordable care is not an option. If I lose my insurance coverage, I, like millions of Americans, face an uncertain and potentially fatal future under the leadership of a GOP congress intent on repealing the ACA. And we don’t even know exactly how many could lose coverage because the GOP wants to ram this through by their September 30th deadline, before a full CBO analysis is conducted…
Our current system does need fixing, but that is the point. If you can not come up with a better plan than the ACA, focus on fixing the current approach instead of undermining the only healthcare many Americans can afford. It is hard to fathom, whether you are Republican or Democrat, why anyone would vote or support a healthcare Bill that would harm millions? Have we sunk so low that corporate greed determines the value of a human life?
We can and we must stop Graham-Cassidy the same way we stopped the last ridiculous healthcare bill the GOP tried to sell us. Pick up the phone, take to the streets, send emails, and do whatever you can do. Because this is not and has never been political. We owe each other more than this broken system. Please stand up and fight. My life and millions of others depend on it.
Call your representative today (202)-224–3121 and say vote NO to Graham-Cassidy.