Vote As If Your Life Depends on It... Or At Least As If Mine Does

A patient is taken to a waiting medical transport vehicle outside Bellevue Hospital in New York Wednesday Oct. 31, 2012. Mayo
A patient is taken to a waiting medical transport vehicle outside Bellevue Hospital in New York Wednesday Oct. 31, 2012. Mayor Michael Bloomberg says Bellevue Hospital is evacuating 500 patients due to storm damage. Bloomberg said Wednesday that officials are in the process of finding beds for the patients. Workers have been pumping about 17 million gallons of water out of the basement. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

(This blog post expresses my personal views and does represent an organizational position or statement endorsed by Lambda Legal.)

A lot of my friends have been talking/Facebooking/Tweeting about how important this election is in terms of the struggle toward equality for the gay community. I couldn't agree with them more, but I want to focus on a different subset of my friends--the ones living with HIV--and the fight they are in for their very lives.

I have a dear friend who is unemployed at this time, and he happens to be HIV-positive. Because healthcare insurance in this country is tied to our employment, he is unable to purchase an affordable, individual plan on the open market. And he needs health insurance, because that provides him with access to the medications that keep him (and me) alive. The money my friend "saved for a rainy day"--which paradoxically prevents him from accessing the public benefits available for people living with HIV to obtain life-saving treatment--will not last forever. He is counting on the Affordable Care Act being there in 2014, counting on it to keep him ALIVE, healthy and thriving!

Our current healthcare system is undeniably broken. And that affects real people--your friends and family, my friends and family, everyone. And if it doesn't directly impact any of the people you hold dear today, well it may tomorrow. I am one of the lucky few living with HIV who has private health insurance (only 13% of us do), but if I lost my job tomorrow, I would be but a few months--maybe a year--away from the dire situation my friend is facing.

We know Obamacare hangs in the balance of this election (see Klein, "The Most Important Issue of This Election: Obamacare" Washington Post, Oct. 26, 2012), and I know people living with HIV are counting on its full implementation to ensure that we are able to access the care and treatment that sustains our lives. But we are not the only ones--hundreds of thousands of others are denied access to quality, affordable healthcare because of medical conditions the insurance companies consider "pre-existing" and too expensive to treat.

So if you are on the fence about who to vote for in this election, if you believe the economy is recovering (everyone agrees that it is) but you would like to see it recover faster and are thinking about "giving the other guy a chance," or you are contemplating making a change for the sake of change, I would ask you to think long and hard about the people who will suffer and die down the road, because we let healthcare reform die in the Election of 2012.

One of those people could be someone you care about, it could even be you--so vote as if your life depends on it.