When my former colleagues in Congress attack health care, they attack me

When my former colleagues in Congress attack health care, they attack me
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Like many Members of Congress, I thought I knew health care. Until I got sick. Just over a year ago, I shared my story about my personal fight for my right to health care while my former Republican colleagues were doing everything in their power to take it away.

It’s not a secret: I have multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system. It is a chronic and expensive disease. Every time the GOP attacks the health care of working families, I hear them loudly and clearly because they put my life at risk.

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It seems a decade ago that I was at the sit-in on Capitol Hill to protest gun violence when the House physician called me into his office, but that was 2016.

I've had run 5ks, 10ks, played football and softball and rode my bike. I've also had low cholesterol and a healthy heart. But here I am two years from my diagnosis barely able to walk a mile. Since that time, I’ve gone from the frying pan right into the fire.

Thanks to Republican sabotage, between 2017 and 2018, premium rates rose up to 32 percent and 3.2 million more people were uninsured in 2017 than were insured at the end of 2016.

I know the impact of rising costs all too well. My medication costs run roughly $73,000 a year. MRI scans now total more than $29,000. And that's not all — now I’m in the private insurance market — I make too much money for Medicaid, but I am not old enough for Medicare — at a cost of $1,615 per month with a $6,500 deductible.

This health-care sabotage has left millions of hard working Americans uninsured and raised the cost of health care for families across our country. In their relentless attacks on our health care, Republicans have raised the cost of health-care premiums for an average 40-year-old by $1,013.

Millions of Americans have reached the break point — exhausted savings, unable to keep pace with expenses, halving medications, bankruptcy. $650 million a year is raised on GoFundMe to cover medical costs that insurance companies refuse.

Some are self-employed or may fall through the income boundaries; others simply cannot afford even modestly priced insurance; others have more expensive conditions than MS with high out-of-pocket costs. After failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act in Congress, the Trump Administration took their attacks to court by targeting protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

And, 130 million of us have pre-existing conditions that will make us uninsurable by year’s end if President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet MORE and Republicans continue to get their way.

Angry, but resolute, I’ve joined the armies of health-care advocates across the country as we rise and fight back against the Republican attempts to repeal and sabotage our health care. By raising our voices and telling our stories, we stopped the Republican health-care repeal bill from passing the Senate in 2017. We took to the streets when the GOP forced their disastrous tax law — which has left millions uninsured and others paying more for health care.

Just this summer, Republicans continued to trade in our access to necessary and lifesaving care for higher corporate profits. We have seen Republicans bring back dangerous junk insurance plans, a lawsuit that will destabilize our entire health-care system and a Supreme Court nominee who has made it clear that Americans’ access to health care is not his priority.

With only a few weeks until the midterm elections, the fight for our health care is more urgent than ever. So, I am speaking up, I am standing up and I am asking my fellow Americans to do the same. Health-care voters have already determined elections in Maine, Virginia and Pennsylvania in the last year — and we are recreating those victories and bringing our full force to the ballot box on Election Day.

We are all affected by health care. Tell your story. Amplify your neighbor’s voice. Send a message to our lawmakers on Capitol Hill that they work for us. I know that the only way to seize control of our health care is to remove those who stand in the way. On November 6, I will be a health-care voter. My life depends on it and so does yours.

Former Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.) is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives (2008 to 2017). She is a co-chair at Health Care Voter.