WASHINGTON ― Senate Democrats held a “shadow hearing” on the American Health Care Act Wednesday to hear from Americans who would be affected by the GOP’s proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. One of the witnesses, whose daughter was born with Down syndrome, brought Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) to tears with her testimony.
“I remember standing at the mailbox with my tiny baby ― she was still under 10 pounds at 11 months old ― cradled in my arms, and opening an envelope from the children’s hospital with a bill inside for $64,000, more than my husband’s annual salary, for merely ‘renting’ the surgical room and equipment used during her heart surgery the month before,” said Cyndi Johnson, a math teacher from Bloomington, Indiana.
Johnson said that before Obamacare was in place, her out-of-pocket costs for her daughter’s health care needs were “spiraling with no end in sight.” She had to quit her job to care for her daughter full-time, and her family’s middle-class lifestyle was “slipping away.”
Then, in 2010, her family was able to obtain health insurance through Obamacare that did not include a lifetime cap on medical expenses. If the cap were still in place, Johnson said, her daughter would have likely reached it by age 5, and the whole family would have lost health coverage.
“As a parent, absolutely nothing else matters when your child is sick,” Johnson said. “Your world shrinks and everything else just falls away. I would have sold my house, my car, done literally anything to keep my daughter healthy ― and no family should have to make that horrible choice.”
Kaine and the other Senate Democrats at the hearing appeared deeply moved by Johnson’s testimony.
“Mrs. Johnson, tears just started rolling down my face,” said the former vice presidential candidate. “The people who passed this law couldn’t care less what any of you think or what any of your experiences are.”
“I can’t listen to you without hurting,” said Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
House Republicans passed a health care bill last week that would allow employers to impose lifetime and annual caps on medical expenses. It would also roll back Medicaid benefits, which could strip health insurance from an estimated 24 million people, and prevent Medicaid recipients from going to Planned Parenthood for preventative health care, like birth control and cancer screenings.
Gina Walkington, a constituent of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), testified at the hearing that she might have died if not for Planned Parenthood discovering and removing pre-cancerous cells from her cervix 11 years ago. The 31-year-old mother of three said she was in college at the time and didn’t know where else to go for preventative health care she could afford.
“Had Planned Parenthood not been so easily accessible and affordable for me, my life may have turned out radically different,” she said. “Had I waited to get care, and had the cells continued to develop without my knowledge, I could have lost the ability to have children or even died.”
After the six witnesses told their stories, Senate Democrats slammed House Republicans for rushing their latest health care bill to a vote without holding any hearings on it. The House GOP threw a massive beer bash last week to celebrate passing their bill, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has put together a group of 13 men to write the Senate’s version.
“None of them know what the hell they’re doing to their country,” Booker said. “We just need more Americans to be willing to let folks know what this really means ― not in data, not in statistics, but real American voices.”
“This is the most pernicious, evil type of privilege that says ‘If a problem is not affecting me or my family, it’s not much of a problem,’” he added. “You can be damn well sure that if it was a congressman, and this would affect them or their spouse, they would not have passed this law.”