$450,000. That’s how much it cost to save my life when I was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year. More than my house. More than my education. More than even seems possible to comprehend. $450,000 is what I would have had to find a way to pay if my new job did not offer me affordable, quality health care or had I been diagnosed six years ago when my husband Vince and I had little more than a few dollars to spend on food, let alone health care.
As newlyweds, Vince and I had lived off student loans and a very small income. With my mother’s wisdom engrained, one of the first things we did when I started graduate school was to sign up for the student health care program. It was inexpensive and carried a high deductible, one I would never meet, but it would cover me in case anything catastrophic happened. I remember the first medical bill that came in for a routine annual exam. A price tag close to $200 jumped off the page, and my heart sank. I remember telling myself I couldn’t afford to go to the doctor again.
When you're told, at 27 years old, that you will die without immediate treatment, you can't afford to think like that.
There are 13,000 people diagnosed with leukemia each year, and only one in four will survive the treatment. But consider this: How many of that fortunate 25 percent will survive the hospital bill? How many will open their mailbox to a letter saying they are no longer insured or their insurance company will no longer pay for their treatment? I am now one of at least 50 million Americans living with a pre-existing condition in this country—one of millions who could easily meet a lifetime maximum cap should my cancer relapse. For me, and for so many others, Obamacare is the difference between life and death, wellness and illness, solvency and bankruptcy.
That is why I am asking you to consider your vote tomorrow. This is what is at stake in this election.
That $450,000 it took to save my life this year is just the beginning, because the next 10 years of my life will be spent traveling up to Johns Hopkins for blood tests. I don’t have the luxury of skipping a doctor’s appointment anymore or pushing off a bone marrow biopsy. I can’t say that my bank account comes before my health. This time, I’m not paying for a simple, routine exam. I am paying for my life.
I live everyday wondering if my cancer will come back, but because of Obamacare, I don't have to worry that I won’t be able to fight it again. If I have to watch the chemo drip into my veins again, I won't have to worry whether I can afford it or the anti-nausea medications without selling my first house to pay the bill.
Our forefathers wrote that we have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” First and foremost, life. No one in the United States of America should have to choose money over life, but that’s the choice we will make if we elect a president who says he would repeal Obamacare on day one.
I was working in the U.S. House of Representatives when the Affordable Care Act was passed, but I had no idea what it meant until I was lying in a hospital bed. If you are on the fence or thinking about what to do, please take a moment and think of me—and the millions of Americans like me—while you are in the voting booth. There aren’t many times when you get such an opportunity to have such a direct impact on a life, but trust that you will when you cast your vote for President Obama tomorrow.