As many of you already know, the latest draft of the Republicans’ health care bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), passed by a narrow margin on Thursday in the House of Representatives and will soon move on to the Senate. Among the changes the new bill makes to the existing Affordable Care Act is the relaxing of laws that prevent insurance companies from charging more for pre-existing conditions. They also expanded the list of conditions to include anxiety, depression, menstrual irregularities, obesity, and many others.
Obviously, this is bad for anyone with a pre-existing condition, including virtually everyone with a disability.
Aside from the moral implications of allowing only the healthy and wealthy realistic access to healthcare in the U.S., this vote underscores a big problem I notice time and time again when it comes to political decisions that affect the disability community. As a community, I know we are expensive. Health care is expensive for everyone, and much more expensive when you need hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment just to stay alive and functional. No one is arguing that it is cheap and easy. But when will elected officials see us as more than a dollar sign?
By and large, I really feel like politicians don’t care what happens to me. And because of their actions, I can’t help but think that they would rather let me die, simply because I’m too much work and I’m too expensive to keep alive. That’s horrible to say, I know. It makes me sound pessimistic and dramatic and [insert your adjective here]. But why won’t politicians be held accountable for proposing and supporting policies that are just inhumane?
When President Trump attempted his first version of a travel ban, America fought back with a cadre of attorneys ready to take him to court for an unconstitutional policy. But where are the civil rights attorneys now? And why does it take this much opposition to assure that our right to life is recognized?
What I think we need — and what I would like to see — is an organized oppositional force from the disability community. I would also like to see an effective and functional disability law center in every state, not just the states with a ton of activists. If all of us, disabled or not, will publicly acknowledge that people with atypical medical needs have the same rights as others do to stay alive and function in society, we could prevent this health care policy, and other similar policies, from threatening our right to life.
I would like to encourage all of my readers to write your senators and encourage them to vote “no” on the upcoming AHCA bill. Here is a website that you can use to find your senators, along with their contact information.Tell them your story. Explain how you would be affected by the passage of the AHCA, and be specific. If you can’t think of what to say, I have included a form letter that you can alter to fit your circumstance and email to your senators. Please remember that your voice is important. You matter. And despite what you may feel, you have the potential to change the world.
Dear Senator [Name],
I am one of your constituents and [my friend/family member has] [I have] a disability. I am very concerned about the upcoming health care bill that you will be voting on. Because [I have/he/she has] unique health needs, I am primarily concerned with the assertion that [my/my family member’s/my friend’s] pre-existing condition will make [him/her/me] virtually uninsurable. For us, health insurance coverage is a life-or-death issue.
[Here, you can include whatever story you’d like].
I hope that you will consider my viewpoint on this matter before and during your vote. I believe it is a very important issue for many of your constituents and look forward to seeing a better solution come forward that does not count [me/my family member/my friend] out.