I went to DC this week to take meetings, and in my free time, I decided to advocate against this travesty of a mockery of a sham of a healthcare bill, Cassidy-Graham. Having seen Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speak against it from the Senate Gallery this past Monday, I wrote this letter, based on my experience there, and spent a good two hours yesterday dropping off a copy of it in every single US Senator’s office. All in all, I got it to 96 of the 100 men and women who will vote on it before the end of the month.
Here is the text of said letter.
Dear Senator –
My name is Jeremy Fassler. I am a writer, journalist, and activist, and I wanted to share with you an experience I had this week when I first learned the effects of Cassidy-Graham, the newest iteration of President Trump’s plan to replace President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act.
On Monday afternoon, I went to the Senate Gallery to watch Senator Schumer speak against Cassidy-Graham. I, like so many Americans, depend on my healthcare for my well-being, and can afford both the drugs I take and the treatment I receive because of the ACA. Schumer’s fiery diatribe denouncing the bill was an excellent summation of what a disastrous piece of legislation this is. I left the Senate Gallery shortly after it had concluded, eager to write about what I had just seen.
And then I fell down the West Staircase of the Senate Wing.
Now, visitors aren’t supposed to exit the Gallery by going down the marble West Staircase (which does not have a sufficient protective side rail), and I was wearing slippery, wing-tipped shoes, which certainly didn’t help. But walk towards it I did, thinking that nobody would notice. Plus, I wanted to check out the painting of Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet that hangs above it.
I hadn’t even gone two steps when I made my slip, tumbling down the rest of the way. Realizing I could be in grave danger, I utilized every reflex I could to protect myself, taking the fall with my body and not my hands or my head. By the time I got to the bottom, I had propped myself up against the wall, with my right leg sticking out and my left leg tucked in from the shock.
I was helped by a security guard named Marcus, and the Capitol’s Officer Goodman, who checked me for injuries and gave me the time I needed to recover. Miraculously, I was completely unhurt. No bruises or cuts, no twisted ankle, and I didn’t even hit my head. I was up and walking only a few minutes later, grateful for my quick reflexes. Charlie Chaplin would have been proud, I thought, smugly.
But – suppose Cassidy-Graham did pass. Suppose I lost the health insurance from the ACA that I so sorely need? Suppose I took that fall down the West Staircase, in your workplace, where you might vote to rob me of my benefits, and my injuries had been worse?
Under Cassidy-Graham, New York, the state that covers my health insurance, would lose $45 billion in Medicaid funding – this is the most current estimate, since the Congressional Budget Office has not yet given the bill a CBO score. In terms of the dollar amount, this would be one of the steepest declines of any state affected by the bill. Federal funding would then be replaced with block grants, which would determine a fixed amount to be given to New York and all other states to allot to those who need medical insurance. In short, the plan that I rely on, New York Healthfirst, a Medicaid program, would be drastically reduced, if not destroyed completely.
The block grants you seek to replace my Medicaid with would force me to fight with others for the meager resources allotted to New York residents for our healthcare. I know our President became famous for a reality competition where he had contestants vie for his approval, but our right to healthcare should be free of this inane stricture that restricts our access to proper care. I should not have to compete with an opioid addict or a cancer patient to receive funding from my state for my treatment.
What if my fall had injured me with a broken bone, or a concussion, so that I needed a CT scan? With my insurance, getting such a procedure at a local hospital would cost me at least $340.00 – a little expensive, but something I can afford. But without my insurance, that price could skyrocket to anywhere between 800 and 1,000 dollars. An ER visit without insurance could cost me upwards of $500. I could even be charged extra for having to ride in an ambulance. So many possible injuries could have happened to me in your place of work, and if one had happened after you robbed me of my insurance, I might be in debt today.
My first visit to the ER as an adult was in Massachusetts, where, thanks to Mitt Romney’s healthcare plan, I received a greatly reduced fee. What has happened to the Republican Party’s conscience over the past ten years, that now they would consider a person’s health to be a partisan issue? If I had been injured in my fall, would you have chalked it up to my bad luck for falling, and not given me any help? The two Capitol officers who helped me would not have let such a thing happen. Why would you, who have such a higher ranking than they, want to weaken my right to the help I need from hospitals and pharmacies?
I count myself as a lucky person, whose skin and gender free him from the prejudices that many others face. I am also lucky to have been able to fall down the West Staircase without suffering. But living under the rule of this tyrannical President this past year, I am aware of how fragile my rights are. Before the election, I relied on others to stand up for me. Now, with such a paucity of leadership in Washington, I write this letter knowing that if I do not stand up for myself, perhaps no one will.
I urge you to vote down this “Frankenstein monster” of a bill, as Senator Schumer put it, for my sake, and for the millions of Americans who depend on the benefits of Medicaid and the ACA. The Declaration of Independence grants me the right to life. Healthcare is a part of my life, and I will not let you deprive me of it without my consent.
Jeremy Fassler is a writer and journalist living in Brooklyn, New York.