Concerned About Breast Cancer? Call Your Senator and Say ‘No’ to the AHCA

My cheesy movie quote contribution to the Trump #resist movement

If you’re a woman, and particularly a breast cancer patient or survivor, it’s time to get pissed. In case you’ve checked yourself out from politics these last two weeks (to be fair, I don’t blame you) in a close vote of 217 – 213, the House of Reps recently passed a revised version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) AKA Trumpcare 2.0. The revised AHCA allows states to obtain waivers from the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) provision that requires insurance companies to accept people with preexisting conditions and charge them the same amount as healthy people their age. And well, that means that people with preexisting conditions are going to have to fork up more $$$ for their healthcare. So now,  in the eyes of the majority of  our congressmen and congresswomen representing us on Capitol Hill, you’re labeled as one of the 6 million Americans that have a #preexistingcondition. And that’s a problem.

Now before I begin, a few disclaimers. One, it’s highly anticipated that the Senate will heavily revise this bill. After all, according to the most recent Quinnipiac poll conducted on this issue, only 21% of US voters approve of the AHCA in its current form. So yeah, some workshopping definitely needs to be done in the Senate, but until then, we still ought to have this conversation about the AHCA as it currently stands. Two, before diving into this post, if you haven’t already, I would strongly recommend reading my post from a few weeks ago where I ultimately defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and highlight flaws in the original version of the AHCA. It’ll give more context to my post today, trust me. Third, I will emphasize that this blog is focused on breast cancer, so anytime I get juicy with political talk, keep in mind that I’m exclusively focusing on how politics relates to breast cancer. If you have something to say about my writing that isn’t about breast cancer, the Internet is a big place, so go find you jam somewhere else✌️

OK, glad I’ve got that out of the way. So let’s talk some hard numbers. If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, congratulations, with the revised AHCA, according to CBS Money Watch, on average nationwide insurance premiums will increase for you by $28,230. If you live in the sunshine state of Florida, where I’m currently based, your premium is expected to increase by an average of $30K. If you don’t live in Florida and want to see what the premiums look like in your state, check out the map below, also from CBS Money Watch. And in case you’re wondering, if your state is shaded in gray, congratulations, you’re living in one of the seven states that you’re protected from health status underwriting actions like this. So for all my readers in my home state of Massachusetts, be glad you live there.

#Yikes. Source: CBS Money Watch

Republican congressmen and congresswomen nationwide that voted yes on this bill are answering their angry constituents by telling them that if you have a preexisting condition, you’re not being denied coverage. And they’re right, you’re not being denied coverage. And for all these states that are opting for the waiver, they can apply for federal funds to establish state-run insurance programs called “high risk pools.” In total, the federal government has set aside $138 billion over the next decade for these high risk pools and other funds to assist states with the adjustment. It was originally $130 billion, but the Upton amendment was added to sway moderate Republicans towards voting for the bill, which added another $8 billion in funds over the next five years just for people with preexisting conditions. That boils down to around $14 billion per year. Now to us average common folk, that sounds like a lot of money. But the federal government couldn’t be so far off the mark, because according to estimates conducted by lawyers and policy makers in the healthcare field that are reported in this article from Business Insider, the amount of moolah needed annually to fund these high risk pools could range anywhere from $15 – $32 billion annually. Now, I’m no mathematician, but that seems like our elected officials probably ‘missed’ a few billion dollars in their calculations! And what about when the Upton amendment dries up, then what?

Alright, so if you’re starting to tell yourself, “Grace is just a liberal whack-a-doodle, shoving talking points down my throat” fine, don’t listen to me. But maybe then listen to this career coach, writer, and breast cancer patient Michelle Ward. In her article in the Daily Beast, she also is scratching her head over some of this math. Take a look below to see what she says about the Upton amendment of an additional $8 billion in funding for high risk pools:

So now the AHCA supposedly “covers” those of us with pre-existing conditions because they added an amendment where there’ll be an extra $8 billion that’ll be used just for us. Ya know, when states opt out of covering us, because who cares about other humans.

I’m not great at math, but if you divide $8 billion by $500,000—and let’s say that’s what the “average” breast cancer patient saves in less than a year in treatment, conservatively—that only covers 16,000 of those treatments.

And even more incredible? It’s $8 billion over 5 years. So, 3,200 extra people in the whole country every year get the health care coverage that people without pre-existing conditions will receive. That’s what “flipped” enough Republicans to vote Yes to this bill who were voting No in March. Conservatives that have said, “No, this doesn’t do enough for my constituents with pre-existing conditions” are now saying “OK, sure, this’ll do,” to an extra 16,000 treatments for the whole country. An extra 3,200 treatments a year.

Who is telling the 236,710 American women who get diagnosed with breast cancer each year that they now have cancer and are bankrupt, since our premiums alone could skyrocket up to $25,700 a year? How will the 133 million other Americans who have pre-existing conditions be “covered”? Who are the Chosen 16,000?

Ask yourself that — who are the chosen 16,000 women that are chosen to receive this coverage? Can you justify that there will be winners and losers with the AHCA? And that when I say winners and losers, I mean people that will afford to live, and people that can only afford to die? 

The mission of this blog is to help women and men everywhere look beyond the breast cancer ribbon and look for real ways to become #breastcancerfeminists and elevate the conversation on ending breast cancer for good. Too many women are dying, yes dying, losing their lives, due to this disease, and only more women are going to die if they can no longer afford health coverage. Instead of wearing a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness, call your elected official. Write a letter too, because writing is cool. Demand that your congressman or congresswoman host a town hall. I went to a town hall in Miami a few months back that was hosted by a coalition of community activists since our elected official, Senator Marco Rubio, refused to host a town hall. And it made news. Make news. Get people together to tell your senators “NO TO THE AHCA.”

Two of the Republican congressmen that voted for this bill in South Florida, Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, represent some of the nation’s districts with the most subscribers to the ACA. According to the Miami New Times, Curbelo hasn’t hosted a constituent town hall in 645 days! And Diaz-Balart? Try 2,155 days! It’s time to get to work, in South Florida and nationwide. Get involved with civic organizations in your area and demand more from your elected officials. Because you’re worth more, you’re a life, not just a pink ribbon.

I want to leave you all with this. Physician and breast cancer patient Sarah Nadeem recently wrote an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, and she had this to say, “I cannot imagine how anyone who has experienced an illness of their own or a loved one can consider health care as a partisan issue or a commodity. Health care is a matter of humanity, not politics.”

I agree with Nadeem that health care should be a universal human right that the federal government guarantees we have affordable access to. Not everyone would agree with me, but hey we live in a country where we can agree to disagree. What I can say is that health care, and in turn breast cancer, have become political. Healthcare is a political football that primarily the Republican Party has used in their attempt to gain leverage over the Democrats. There are literally Republicans that admit they didn’t even read the most recent version of the AHCA and voted to pass it anyways. 

If we want less women to die from breast cancer, we can’t keep talking about how things should or shouldn’t be. Yeah healthcare shouldn’t be political since we’re humans and we’re not immortal and we’ll all get sick and die. But guess what, it is. Get used to it. So if you really want to help the cause for breast cancer awareness, don’t just wear a pink ribbon because that’s a passive act. Do something active and call your senator. Because breast cancer survivors are more than a #preexistingcondition. They’re women with lives that deserve the right to affordable health care. Punto.

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