Dear Senator Toomey,
I’ve emailed you multiple times over the past few years and never once did it make an impact on your decision in terms of voting. I don’t expect you to suddenly become liberal because I’ve written you a letter, but I had hoped that you would have heard the overwhelming cries from your constituents and at least would have compromised in some way. I’ve even met with your aides in your DC office to discuss the needs of people living with chronic illness in 2013 and 2016, only to be told that basically that there are not enough people like me (living with rheumatoid arthritis) in Pennsylvania for you to take a stand on the issue of lowering outrageous drug costs. I also spoke about Medicare caps on physical and speech therapy. Your staffer proudly told me that “he didn’t know anyone who didn’t get extra PT when they asked for it.” As a speech-language pathologist, I pointed out that isn’t the case for seniors who need speech therapy following a stroke or TBI. (For those that don’t know there is a Medicare Part B therapy cap that limits coverage for BOTH speech and physical therapies at $1980. Occupational therapy has it’s own cap of $1980). Speech therapy is not often deemed “medically necessary” by insurance. Imagine that. Not being able to communicate is not “medically necessary” in the eyes of insurance companies. Makes total sense. (*not sure if you understand sarcasm, so I feel the need to point it out here.)
The past few years, I’ve watched my parents struggle with the cost of their healthcare. My parents were both hard-working middle class, life-long residents of Pennsylvania. My father was a maintenance journeyman at a factory and my mother was a small business owner. They worked hard, paid their taxes, and hoped that they planned well for their retirement. Unfortunately, medical costs have all but depleted their resources. I was hopeful with the expansions set forth by the ACA that these burdens would ease. I heard you telling your mother in a commercial that “no one would take away her medicare”, yet this Senate Healthcare bill is going to put added burden of cost on seniors who are already struggling.
The impact of individuals living with Medicaid will be even more horrific. I grew up in a community that saw people on medicaid as “free loaders”. This is partly a misconception. Of course there are people who are playing the system, but more often, people on Medicaid include seniors who require long-term care and have exhausted personal savings. It also includes people with disabilities like those with autism, cerebral palsy, and mental illness, etc. You are going to take care away from our most vulnerable citizens with the elimination of the Medicaid expansion. Providing no more funds after 2024. Have you not read that we have an explosion of individuals on the autism spectrum in this country? Do you expect that all of their parents are millionaires? I expect to see more people with mental illness back on the streets because they won’t be able to get the help they need. In the worlds of Trump and Obama (finally they agree on something). This bill is just MEAN.
I haven’t even mentioned pre-existing conditions yet. The House bill was frightening. The threat of waivers and “high risk pools” made me sick to my stomach. Then I read the Senate bill. At first glance, it looks like it will protect people with pre-existing conditions by protecting us from exorbitant costs. Although, I fear that to make the Conservatives in the senate happy, those protections will probably disappear before the vote is cast. There are also a lot of loopholes that I am sure I will have to learn to jump through if I want remain ambulatory (my medication is the only reason why I am still able to walk, I have no doubt). My current medication is over $17,000 per month. I find the cost repulsive, but it’s working for me. I also feel guilty that I have private insurance that covers this for me, while those on Medicaid aren’t able to get the treatments they need due to cost.
I find the fact that the Senate Healthcare bill targets seniors, the disabled, and women horrific. I did notice that there are no women who worked directly on this bill. I’ve never had a baby, but I completely support pre-natal care and maternity/paternity leaves. I have to laugh that men don’t want to have to pay for pre-natal and maternity coverage. Am I wrong or didn’t all men come out of a vagina? I’ve never had cancer, but I support the coverage of chemo and other life saving drugs, no matter the cost. I’m not a senior citizen, but I will be some day and at the rate the republicans are going, I will never be able to afford to retire and afford medication that allows me to not only walk, but to live. Without disease modifying drugs, my body will continue to shut down. I’ve already had damage to my skin, kidneys, arteries, and heart from my disease (didn’t know arthritis did that, did you?) prior to finding the right treatments. My medication keeps me alive. Affordable healthcare is the only way I can survive.
The thing that I find glaringly omitted from the Senate healthcare bill is any form of regulation in place so that insurance and pharmaceutical companies can’t continue to drain the savings of millions of Americans while they continue to get rich off of our illnesses. I know that you were earmarked by the health care industry and even received $42,125 from Select Medical Holdings. In 2015, you also purchased $15,000 of shares in Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund. One of their largest accounts is Pfizer, so it makes sense that you aren’t regulating the healthcare industry. That industry lines your pockets after all. Don’t get me wrong. You have a right to make a living and to have a life savings. You have a right to have donors like Betsy Devos give you lots of money. All of these funders expect your loyalty when it comes time to vote. You voted for Betsy Devos to be the Secretary of Education, even though the majority of Pennsylvanians did not support that appointment. You don’t protect the people of Pennsylvania’s interests as much as you protect your own. You are a millionaire, so I’m sure if your mother’s medical costs increase with the passage of this bill, you will be able to cover her expenses. I unfortunately, can’t do the same for my parents. That breaks my heart.
At the end of the day Senator, you have to live with the morally shocking cuts you are proposing to healthcare. I don’t expect you to understand what it is like to scrape by paycheck to paycheck worrying how you are going to pay for all of your medication to survive. I do expect you to actually listen to your constituents and at least compromise. the ACA was far from perfect, but it was a step in the right direction to make this country healthier. The Senate bill will leave 23 million Americans without coverage. That sir, is a travesty.
I know that you won’t listen, but I am asking you to consider voting “NO” on the passage of the Better Care Reconciliation Act.