After losing her job and health insurance, Ceren Guven turned to Medicaid through Obamacare to manage two painful spinal conditions that have paralyzed parts of her body. Worried about the Graham-Cassidy bill, which would repeal Afforable Care Act, replacing it with legislation that would drain many states' healthcare funding, she created a petition on change.org urging senators to vote "no." As of Tuesday, over 42,000 supporters have signed it—and the Senate announced it would not vote on the bill.
In my early 30s, I was diagnosed with cervical stenosis and cervical radiculitis, diseases that cause the discs in my back to crumble, herniate, and put pressure on my spinal chord. They are devastating, expensive illnesses that the Affordable Care Act made possible for me to manage. If Graham-Cassidy passed, my life and livelihood, and those of millions of Americans like me, would have been in severe danger. But that threat is still looming.
The pain I experience is debilitating. I already have permanent nerve damage and a loss of power in my right hand. Temporary treatment requires constant spinal injections. Long term, I’ll need a surgery that costs upwards of $100,000—and that doesn’t include hospitalization and post-surgery care. But if left untreated altogether, I’ll suffer further nerve damage and a continual loss of bodily movement.
Needless to say, it’s the kind of pain that leaves you unable to do anything.
In 2013, I got in a car accident and totaled my car. Not 48 hours later, I lost my job too—and therefore my healthcare. Within two days, my life was turned upside down. As if the accident wasn’t traumatizing enough, I worried how I’d pay for my injections without my salary. Their costs? Over $1,000 each, plus another $1,000 for an MRI. I couldn’t afford temporary health coverage. Would I need to take out a loan? I wondered. Was that something people even did?
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Thankfully, I didn't have to make that choice because of Obamacare. It literally became my saving grace. Though scheduling appointments through Obamacare sometimes involves confusing paperwork or a wait time ... what doesn't? It offered me low-cost care for conditions I simply couldn't treat out of pocket. It allowed me to keep my pain stable with the injections, and it kept me out of an immense amount of debt. I was able to get back on my feet quickly, find a new job, and continue being a contributing member of our society.
If Graham-Cassidy—or, really, any other effort to undermine rather than improve Obamacare—passes, my home state of California will lose billions of dollars in healthcare funding, and insurance premiums will skyrocket to unaffordable levels. As much as I trust that California will still allow its citizens with pre-existing conditions to get coverage, I can’t see how it’ll be affordable without sufficient government subsidies.
If that’s California—one of the most progressive states in the country—I can’t even imagine how my fellow citizens in other states will cope if a select group of elected officials have their way. A change in how Medicaid funding works will have dire consequences on poor Americans. Those with pre-existing conditions will have to rely on their state governments to make the decision on whether to cover pre-existing conditions or not. And many states will not. And people will die.
This is why I started my petition on change.org. I wanted Americans of all creeds and stripes to come together to show Congress that we all need health coverage, no matter where we’re from, what our existing or pre-existing conditions are, and who we voted for.
What happened to me could happen to anyone. No one is promised eternal health or safety, and at the blink of an eye, your life’s circumstances could turn into something you didn’t imagine. But in those moments, what we shouldn’t have to worry about is how we’ll pay for doctor's visits or medical treatments. And while others may think another healthcare system may be better, what happens in the interim? I don’t have time to waste. My pain will not disappear.
We can’t go back to a world in which people must choose between their health and their bank accounts. It’s why we must come together on this most crucial issue and stand united against those who are determined to wreak havoc on so many lives.
That’s American. And that’s worth fighting for.