There are few things more harrowing than waiting for the call from the doctor about your test results — "Do I have breast cancer or not? Am I going to live a full life or do I need to prepare my family for a different future?" These are the things that you contemplate over and over again until you get your results.
For both of us, the call we got was some of the worst news of our lives — we had breast cancer, and we were going to need very expensive treatment if we were going to survive. And what saved us both was the Affordable Care Act.
We were able to get the treatment we needed without worrying about bankrupting our families. When we need medication, we aren’t discriminated against by the insurance companies for having a preexisting condition. It’s hard to imagine that if either of us had gone through this 10 years ago, we may not be alive to share our stories.
You see, without the ACA we may not have been able to afford our treatment, but even if we had been able to scrape by, the medicine we now regularly need would be unattainable because of how insurance companies were allowed to charge us unconscionable prices just for having a preexisting condition.
We thought we’d be able to live the rest of our lives without worry, but Trump has made that impossible. With his confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, he is one step closer to achieving his long sought goal of repealing the ACA. Will we lose the protections we need that make medicine affordable? And what should happen if our cancer relapses? We will undoubtedly lose everything trying to get the treatment we need.
We aren’t alone. There are 2.4 million Wisconsinites like us who have pre-existing conditions and 150,000 who get their health insurance through the exchange. What makes Trump’s relentless attacks on protections for people with preexisting conditions even more cruel is that he is still going after them in the midst of a pandemic that has killed over 220,000 Americans and infected over 7 million. Here in Wisconsin, the virus has wreaked havoc: thousands have died, and new spikes in cases forced the state to open a field hospital to handle the influx of new patients.
Now, if Trump gets his way, testing positive for COVID-19 may be considered a preexisting condition and reason enough for an insurance company to deny someone coverage. All of the people who have suffered through this virus because of Trump’s failed response may be dealt a second blow if he successfully repeals the ACA and rips away their health care.
We’re both health care voters. We go to the polls thinking about what elected officials are going to do to protect people like us who have preexisting conditions or health ailments like cancer. What’s been made clear is that Donald Trump, his administration, and their Republican allies have never, and will never, protect people like us.
That’s why when we cast our ballots, it’s going to be for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. They’re committed to strengthening the ACA and finding ways to make sure every person has access to quality and affordable care. Instead of trying to attack protections for people with preexisting conditions like Trump has for four years, they are looking toward the future with the most vulnerable people in mind.
We deserve leaders like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris who will do everything in their power to take care of people like us and who let compassion and empathy drive them, and who will stop these senseless attacks on the care we need.
Chrystal Chartier and Rosemary Doyle are breast cancer survivors living in Wisconsin.
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