It’s important to stay positive, to stay gracious, to believe in good. But I’m struggling to reconcile the message constantly being handed down to me by those in power.
When I was in my early 20s, I had no insurance. As a result, I didn’t go to a proper doctor for years. Finally, something amazing happened. President Obama passed a law that said young adults under the age of 26 could be covered by their parents’ health insurance. I went to a doctor. I learned that I urgently needed to have one of my internal organs removed. As I groggily awoke from surgery, my doctor told me, “If you hadn’t have come in when you did, you would have been coming here in an ambulance.” Modern medicine has advanced to a point where there is no reason why this condition should ever be lethal to anyone, but I – as a 23-year-old-woman in America – could have died. Why didn’t I? Because I had fucking health insurance.
Fast-forward to a year later. As you may recall, I got cancer in my lymph nodes. Yeah… didn’t have tremendously good luck in my early 20s. Luckily, thanks in no small part to a man I’ll never meet named Barack Obama, I was still covered under my dad’s health insurance plan. (The fact that my dad – a man in his 60s – was working a full time job to have access to that health insurance is another problem… the system is broken in a lot of ways.)
I count myself to be incredibly lucky: I beat cancer without going into debt for the rest of my life, and I enjoy a surprisingly low degree of long-term effects to my health (so far). But my status as a cancer survivor is one that weighs on me heavily when I consider basically every question about my future: from my career and my savings account, to my relationship and family planning.
I am an American with a pre-existing condition.
Today, I exist in an emotionally exhausting political climate where I feel as though I am being constantly attacked. Can someone please explain to me why?
I have heard an onslaught of disgusting rhetoric from the right. Apparently, my pre-existing condition is an unfair burden on healthy people. Apparently, I could have avoided my pre-existing condition had I lived a more virtuous life. (BTWs guys, go ahead and do a Google search on Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: we have no idea what causes it! Literally anyone could get it and we have no idea why! Super fun!)
I have heard this is about “freedom.” People deserve the “freedom” to choose not to be insured if they don’t want to be. Companies deserve the “freedom” to choose not to insure certain conditions if they don’t want to. Well guess what? That’s a load of hot bullshit.
Here’s what’s going on: It’s Greed.
Here’s what a politician SHOULD BE: A civil servant dedicated to defending their communities and improving the lives of their constituents.
Here’s what Paul Ryan and his pack of anti-health-care cronies actually are: Con men. Plain and simple. These are men, wearing the costumes of civil servants, protecting the interests of big business.
Here’s what it SHOULD mean to have insurance: You have a safety net to cover your expenses in the event that you should ever need any kind of medical procedure, medicine, or have any other needs related to your health (which, if you are human, you definitely will).
Here’s what Republicans seem to want it to mean to have insurance: You pay money to a large corporation that doesn’t do shit for you.
Here’s what insurance companies seem to want it to mean for you to have insurance: We’ll take your money until you get sick, then you’re on your own bro!
In your heart of hearts, I know you know this is a system that is not just, it’s not defending our freedoms, and it’s not protecting the larger interests of the American people.
Today, yet again, I am reminded that I live in a country that is controlled by people who do not care about the members of our community who need their help the most. I am reminded – whether this bill is passed or not – that my government does not serve me. I am reminded that America is a country that actively works to strip freedom from its citizens while proclaiming to stand for that very thing.
But this isn’t new. I’m a white girl who grew up in the suburbs. I didn’t grow up feeling like I lived in a system that was rigged against me. I didn’t grow up looking at my government and feeling actively despised by the same assholes who get on the news and talk about freedom. For me, as a young adult with a pre-existing condition in a political climate where my health insurance status feels constantly called into question, I now know what it feels like to feel my government declare loudly that they think this country would be better off without people like me. But for many Americans: this isn’t new. For many Americans – whether it’s because of their race, their religion, the geographical region they were born into or the amount of money that specific community happens to have, whether it’s based on a mental or physical disability or just plane having the wrong genes, I am overwhelmed with the painful realization that an absolutely massive amount of my fellow Americans have spent their entire life with this same feeling that I am experiencing now. And it crushes me.
I owe a million apologies to every person I’ve ever spoken to without realizing this is how they feel Every. Fucking. Day. You are the heroes. Our country needs you – the members of our communities who get out of bed everyday, knowing you operate within a system that is built specifically around fucking you over, and you do your goddamn best anyway. You are the people who make America great. You are the people who I hope our children will look at and admire. You are the people who demonstrate the strength I hope to find more regularly in myself. We would be lost without you. These assholes standing on your shoulders would be lost without you too. Which is what makes the whole thing that much more heartbreakingly shitty.