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OCONOMOWOC — When I first asked you for my job, I was not just fighting to win an election, I was fighting for my life.

I was diagnosed with colon cancer at the end of my primary election campaign for lieutenant governor eight years ago. I was 35, had two daughters ages 4 and 7, and was running for public office for the very first time.

Just two weeks before Election Day, doctors discovered I had cancer when they found a grapefruit-sized tumor that had already broken through my colon wall. Within days I had to be taken in for emergency surgery. I was still in the hospital on Election Day — getting out just in time to go to the polls and vote. And two days after the general election I began my long journey of chemotherapy – a journey filled with moments that unfortunately last a lifetime.

I lost about half my hair while radio hosts laughed about whether I wore an ugly wig or whether I intentionally styled my hair badly. I began to drop cups of coffee as my neuropathy caused my fingers to lose sensation. I ducked into the ladies room at the inaugural ball so no one could see my face had frozen because of another chemo side effect.

I’ll never forget my battle with cancer and the impact it had on my family. And I know how tough it was on them, because I’ve also been in their shoes. I was 27 when my dad died from pancreatic cancer. So to say the topic of health care reform is a personal one is an understatement.

That’s why I’m shocked Democratic candidate for governor Tony Evers and his allies are saying Gov. Scott Walker would end protections for people with pre-existing conditions — people like me.

The truth? Gov. Walker has always promised to protect people like me and require insurance companies to do the same as well. So let’s look at the facts on Gov. Walker’s record on health care:

  • Both the governor and I oppose Obamacare and the way it sent premiums skyrocketing, which is why we pushed for its repeal and passed bipartisan reforms as part of our Health Care Stability Plan.
  • At the same time that we’ve fought against Obamacare, we’ve fought in favor of continuing to cover pre-existing conditions. They’re covered now, and as long as Gov. Walker and I are in office, they always will be in Wisconsin.
  • We want to guarantee coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions. That way, someone who has cancer or another serious disease or ailment will not have to worry about obtaining or keeping coverage, no matter what is happening in Washington.

In our Health Care Stability Plan, protections for those with a pre-existing conditions weren’t just some talking point — they were literally “Part 1.” And we’ve already passed major elements of that plan, including a market-driven solution in the form of reinsurance that will finally bring down the cost of health care premiums in Wisconsin. That’s right, in 2019 premiums for hard-working families will actually come down instead of skyrocketing as they did under Obamacare.

In fact, because of the governor’s reinsurance plan, premiums next year are expected to be 3.5 percent lower than they are today, and 11 percent lower than if we had taken no action at all.

I’ll never forget what cancer was like. I know — and Gov. Walker knows — we need to give those who fight these terrible battles the peace of mind that they’ll be covered. As long as Scott and I are in office, people with pre-existing conditions will always be covered.

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Kleefisch, a Republican who lives in Oconomowoc, is lieutenant governor of Wisconsin: ltgov.wi.gov and @LtGovKleefisch.

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