I grew up as a lifelong Republican in the rural Midwest. Four decades ago, I cast my first vote for Ronald Reagan. Since then, I’ve made phone calls, knocked on doors, and donated time and money to elect anyone with an ‘R’ next to their name – and that was my plan for the rest of my life.
But God had other plans for me. I was nearing my fiftieth birthday when I received the most traumatic news of my life: I had stage 4 throat cancer and just weeks left to live. As I lay struggling to breathe in the ICU at Banner Good Samaritan Hospital, I felt all hope draining from me just as quickly as my medical bills were piling up – until I gained coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s pre-existing condition insurance plan. My cancer treatments began the day my coverage took effect.
The coverage I received through the ACA gave me a new lease on life — and a new perspective. My views shifted on health care access, the role of government, and which leaders were really looking out for families like mine. After all, I knew that the ACA wasn’t just for my benefit — it also protects 100 million people from being denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions and extends coverage to 20 million more. Thanks to the ACA, people like me don’t have to worry about going bankrupt to pay for life-saving medical treatment.
Today, when I see Donald Trump trying to repeal the ACA, strip away coverage from millions of Americans, and eliminate pre-existing condition protections in the middle of a pandemic, I’m appalled — and frightened to my core.
Four years ago as a candidate, Trump promised to defend coverage for pre-existing conditions. He didn’t keep his word. Instead, he pulled out all the stops to overturn the ACA and undermine critical coverage protections for people like me. Among Trump’s many well-documented broken promises, this one in particular stands to hurt millions of Americans — including many of those who voted for him — in a moment of unprecedented crisis.
Much like cancer, a pandemic is a health crisis that requires early, decisive action and expert advice to confront effectively. I thank God every day that I listened closely to the advice of medical experts. Our president should be doing the same.
Instead, Trump dismissed the guidance of public health experts and medical professionals for months, while downplaying the virus. The result? Over 5.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 178,000 lives lost, including nearly 5,000 Arizonans. It didn’t have to be this bad.
I share my story because I know that what happened to me could happen to any of my fellow Americans — especially now. As our country deals with the fallout of the coronavirus crisis, so many Americans who have lost their jobs and their employer-sponsored insurance are relying on the ACA for coverage.
That’s why it’s more critical than ever that we protect and expand on the progress we’ve made through the ACA. After all, we rise and fall together. And to truly live up to our nation’s promise, we must take care of our people – no matter who they love, where they worship, which party they support, or whether they have a pre-existing condition.
And after nearly losing my life to cancer, I’m voting like my life depends on it — because I know firsthand that it quite literally does.