Patients From Across the Country Visit Capitol Hill to Stop Senate Health Bill
Patients Share Personal Stories of Coverage Caps, Medicaid and Pre-Ex Conditions
Washington, D.C.— Sixty patients and consumers from across the country, each with their own personal health care story, gathered on Capitol Hill today to urge their senators to preserve quality health care access and coverage for millions of Americans. The event was organized by more than a dozen different patient and public interest groups, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Consumers Union, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, urging senators to, “protect patients now.”
Patients expressed serious concerns over numerous provisions of the Senate health care bill, including eliminating the requirement that plans cover essential health benefits, increasing the amount older Americans can be charged for coverage, lowering premium tax credits and drastically cutting Medicaid funding.
A new nationwide survey commissioned by ACS CAN and released today, showed more than eight in ten (81 percent) Americans would oppose a health care bill if it includes deep cuts to Medicaid and 71 percent oppose moving to lump sum or per capita payments for the program when they find out increased funding would not be available to deal with the real-time needs of state residents.
Laurie Merges-Jett, an Ohio breast cancer survivor and mother of three, shared how Medicaid expansion saved her life. Just two months after being laid off from her job and enrolling in Medicaid, Merges-Jett noticed a hardening in her breast. She was diagnosed with Stage 3b breast cancer and was told that she would need treatment for at least 18 months. Her doctors urged her to suspend her job search until she was healthy again.
“No one should have to battle life-threatening diseases with the anxiety of losing or not having any health insurance,” said Merges-Jett. “We all deserve a chance to live, and my children deserve to have their mother beside them as they grow up.”
More than $800 billion in Medicaid cuts would likely leave patients like Merges-Jett and Lysa Buonanno, a stage IV lung cancer patient from Nevada who relied on Medicaid when she was diagnosed, uninsured and unable to get treatment.
“Not only was I worried about fighting the deadliest cancer in the U.S. but I was also faced with how I was going to pay for these treatments without insurance,” said Buonanno,. “No one should have to worry about affording healthcare when you are fighting each day just to live.”
Matt Slaby of Colorado has a blood clotting disorder. He worries if the Senate bill becomes law, he would be just one recurrence away from losing his house, business, savings and assets. Without a standard set of insurance benefits, as currently required, patients like Slaby could once again face lifetime or annual caps on their coverage.
“I think about it almost every day,” said Slaby. “Fortunately, my coverage through the Affordable Care Act has prevented this from happening and has ensured that I can continue contributing to society as a worker, an entrepreneur, a home-owner, and a human being."
The patients, representing millions across the country with chronic diseases, are meeting with senators and their staff throughout the day and will continue to follow-up when they are back at home. All of the patients stressed that having access to adequate, affordable health insurance is essential and called on their senators to reject the current Senate health proposal.