Once again, the majority Republican Congress is pushing the American Health Care Act – healthcare overhaul, although overhaul is too gentle a word – approval. Last week, the House passed the AHCA with a 1-point margin.
The bill still has to pass the Senate and will likely (hopefully) undergo many changes, but that doesn’t mean some lawmakers weren’t celebrating their promise to decimate healthcare as we know it.
Take for example, Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL).
Congressman Brooks – demonstrably not known for his empathy and charm – thinks YOU have nothing to worry about.
A member of the Freedom Caucus, Congressman Brooks believes that people with pre-existing conditions should have to carry the burden of healthcare through higher premiums.
But that’s not all.
Congressman Brooks also believes that if you lead a good life, then you have nothing to worry about!
Because people without pre-existing conditions like diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure have clearly “done things the right way.”
Well, isn’t that something?
If you’re sick: it’s your fault. You didn’t live a good life, you made some poor decisions, and you have to pay.
It’s only fair, right?
So, to my dear friend who fought cancer in her twenties, I’m here to tell you that you brought on that chemotherapy and worry yourself.
Maybe it was because you enjoyed a beer in college like every other twenty-year-old. Or perhaps it was because you got too little exercise. Or too much! After all, you were active your entire life before you became a runner of 10Ks and half-marathons.
And, to my college friend who lives with Celiac disease.
Well, instead of lamenting your genetic, autoimmune disorder that you’ve had since birth, you should just be thankful that gluten-free flours are now ubiquitous at your big box grocer.
So what that you’re wary of cross-contamination every time you dine out? It’s your fault for having damaged villi in your small intestine (I don’t know how, it just is), so you have woman up and pay that higher premium so others can have their cake (and actually eat it, unlike you).
But what about me—I’m healthy, right? Oh wait, I have one of those “invisible” illnesses and take an antidepressant daily.
But, you know, that’s my fault.
I probably get anxious and depressed because I teased my friend in middle school so I could hang out with the popular group of kids. Or perhaps it’s because I lied that one time in college when I stayed the week at my boyfriend’s dorm room. Or, wait, I’ve got it, it’s because I didn’t pray hard enough during the times I was teased, was so overwhelmed and anxious I could hardly get out of bed, or struggled with my self-esteem.
So, I should definitely have to pay more – I just wasn’t good enough, according to Congressman Brooks.
Americans get it. We realize healthcare is complex, even those of us who aren’t part of the insurance or medical industries.
Was the Affordable Healthcare Act – Obamacare – perfect?
Of course not. While many have benefited from the legislation, others have seen their premiums and deductibles rise to unaffordable levels.
But one thing is certain: the ACA did not punish the sick!
As one of the only progressive nations without a single payer health insurance system, the United States has to do better.
We have to get past this idea that the sick should have to pay.
We have to get past the need to punish those who may – or may not – have made poor choices regarding their health.
Health insurance exists so that we – all of us – can afford medical treatment if and when we become ill or experience an unexpected tragedy.
If we deny coverage to the most vulnerable of us all, then we have lost what it means to be “an American.”
Sickness happens. Birth defects happen. Sexual assaults (unfortunately) happen. Emergency cesarean sections happen. Aneurysms happen. Children are born with chronic, congenital health defects and conditions every minute of every day, through no fault of their own.
Those are the people we need to protect, Congressman Brooks, and the AHCA simply won’t do that.
America, we can – and must – do better. It’s the only way to “lead good lives.”
Catherine is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.