In the Badger State, the Affordable Care Act has provided thousands of Wisconsinites health care for the very first time. That’s why we stopped by Janesville, in Speaker Paul Ryan’s district, on Saturday.
In Janesville, we met Merritt, from just outside of Madison. Merritt came out with her daughter to share her husband’s story with the group and explain how the Affordable Care Act helped her family.
“My husband and I own a small business in Madison. Before we opened our small business, my husband was a rowing coach at the University of Wisconsin—and before that he very proudly represented the United States as an athlete at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.
I mention that just to give you a sense of his level of general health and strength. Of course, that was 20 years ago, but even as of 2016, he was in the habit of running a half-marathon in the summer and skiing the Bourque Race in the winter just to maintain his fitness.
But last year, as he was gearing up for the Bourque Race, he was finding that he was struggling to exercise in a way that wasn’t normal for him. Other than this, he felt totally fine. There was no indication that anything was wrong.
It ultimately led him to be diagnosed with a rare inflammatory disease that we had never heard of—one that was slowly stopping his heart. So, his treatment for this was swift, it was aggressive, and it’s still ongoing. And it’s pretty complicated.
His prognosis is good, but this is a life-time disease, and so even under the best of circumstances, he will require several procedures throughout his life. He’ll be on some level of drug therapy, probably for the rest of his life. And he’ll need several scans or tests every year just to monitor the disease, so he can treat it when necessary.
Any health care system that wouldn’t protect access to affordable care for people with pre-existing conditions, any health care system that allowed insurers to put caps or limits on benefits or services, with a life-time of services with prices, I would not be able to afford his care on our own.
And thinking back to last year, 2016, when this all happened for us. It was a really difficult year for my family. We worried a lot about the big things, but one of the things we never worried about was whether or not we were going to be able to get him the care he needed, which in the face of a life-threatening was a tremendous gift.
Hearing the discussions that are going on now, and the tagline of “the system is broken,” “the system doesn’t work”—it’s a little bit frustrating to hear because of course the system isn’t perfect and needs a lot of work. But for my family, it did work and for my family, it’s still working.”