For weeks now, opponents of Obamacare have tried to convince me that I am a hysterical, uneducated liberal for voicing my opposition to the American Health Care Act. They speak of waivers and lapses, as though there is reassurance to be found in these illusory specters of protection. They say that I should calm my fragile nerves and let the politicians in Washington handle it, because it “probably won’t even effect” me, as though my own hypothetical reprieve from ruin renders the fate of millions of others just like me unworthy of second thought. They say it’s too soon to worry, as though the appropriate time to express concern is only when the red ink has dried on the bill. And comically, they tell me that I just need to do some research, because I clearly don’t know what I’m talking about.
A quick note on moms whose kids have special needs: we research. We research like we have a thesis to defend, and that thesis was born of our bodies and sustained at our breasts. We research as though life depends on it – because often, it does. We research because we know that not one single person among the other seven billion inhabitants of this planet care as much about our children as we do, and that none of them – not geneticists, not neurologists, and certainly not congressmen – will devote themselves to researching what impacts our kids with as much rigor and tenacity as we, their mothers, will. So whatever rebuttal you want to throw at me next, telling me to do my research will only make me laugh. Or else tear your head off with my teeth like a bad ass mama mantis.
Talking about health care is boring. Insurance is confusing. I suspect that is by design, so that as our proletariat eyes glaze over at the mention of underwriter this and high-risk pool that, the insurance lobby and their politician cronies can drink single malt scotch and smoke cigars courtesy of those of us struggling to pay for our monthly prescription of Trump-induced anxiety meds. Really, health care is very simple. At a minimum, health insurance should be affordable for all and health care should be easily accessible. And ideally, health care should be free to all as it is a human right, as detailed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and as evidenced by industrialized nations more humane than our own.
Donald Trump campaigned on promises related to healthcare: that premiums wouldn’t increase, people wouldn’t lose their coverage, and that pre-existing conditions would continue to be covered. I’m not sure why 63 million Americans took the word of a known swindler as something to (literally) stake their lives on, but what’s done is done (fuck you, Electoral College). And advocates of the AHCA aren’t wrong, technically. It’s true – the AHCA doesn’t reinstate bans on people with pre-existing conditions, or raise premiums, or rescind coverage on vulnerable people. It does none of those things, outright. The AHCA – and the GOP generally – is far more insidious than that. What the AHCA does is allow states to apply for waivers, which would allow them to charge older people more than five times what younger people are paying for the same insurance, and eliminate the aptly named essential health benefits (maternity care, mental health, and prescription drugs). Waivers would give states the right to charge more or deny coverage to people who have pre-existing health conditions, and give all insurers – even under employer sponsored plans – the ability to institute annual and lifetime benefit limits.
Another argument in favor of the AHCA is that if you don’t lapse in your coverage, you don’t have to worry about a pre-existing condition raising your rates. So riddle me this: what happens if you lose your job? One stroke of bad luck and – BAM! – your premium just went up 30%, because your baby was born with a congenital heart defect. When people experience a lapse in coverage, it’s usually because they’re in the midst of some trying-ass circumstances. They’ve lost their job. They got a better paying job (hooray!) which gets them off of Medicaid, but puts them in a position where they have to choose between rent or family coverage (boo!). Not only do people lose coverage when they need it most, but the AHCA will make it cost prohibitive to regain. In case this needs spelling out, making insurance unattainable due to health history, finances or age is the same as excluding based on those conditions, which Trump promised not to do.
Access to healthcare isn’t theoretical. It impacts each of us personally, and profoundly. In 2013 I gave birth to my amazing son. While much of his early infancy was typical, from his earliest days there were signs that he wasn’t developing like other babies. His inability to latch to my breast, and later his inability to sit independently and lack of trunk strength concerned me, but his pediatrician said to give him time and reminded me that there was a “wide range of normal”, so I tried not to stress. I have a Master’s in early childhood education and spent years caring for young children professionally. I was very familiar with infant development, and by my son’s eighth month I knew that his development was atypical.
The next eighteen months was a whirlwind of assessment, therapies and finally, a diagnosis: cerebral palsy. In the years that have passed since then, we have relied on a vast array of therapies, procedures and services to help my son gain skills. We have also benefited from special education services, which are funded by Medicaid – dollars that will be cut by 25% if the AHCA becomes law. For children who lack healthcare in the first place, these special education services may be their only access to the essential supports they need to be successful in school and in life. For families and teachers, these services are a lifeline. For the architects of the AHCA, they are expendable.
These are but a few reasons we must fight this unjust, inequitable legislation. This is why I channel Molly Weasley, wand poised, ready to take down the Bellatrix LeStrange of healthcare legislation that is the AHCA. Because none of our kids should see their potential curtailed by political grandstanding and partisan politics. While I’ve had some strong words for the GOP, fundamentally, this should be an issue that surpasses politics, and the fact that it has become a partisan pissing match is disgraceful. This is about what is right and what is wrong, and how we care for and value those who need help the most. There is no reason why in the United States of America of the 21st Century we should even be considering legislation that disregards our most vulnerable citizens: our children, the elderly, the sick, and the poor. It’s the Battle of Hogwarts, y’all. Pick up your wands and join me.