For all my ideological concerns and willingness to fight on behalf of others, the American Health Care Act wasn't supposed to really affect me — until I got a chronic illness. Just as the bill made its resurgence in Congress, I developed a potentially chronic illness that could haunt me for the rest of my life. I never though I would be one of the millions living with a preexisting condition in Trump's America, but now I need others to take up the mantle and make sure this legislation doesn't kill me.
My gastrointestinal issues started about a month ago, and have already sent me to the hospital once. My body can't tolerate any food so I'm on an all-liquid diet, and even working from home is becoming a challenge. Very quickly, I went from being a normal college student preparing for graduation to not being able to make it through the day without frequent rests and an arsenal of medication. I'm still in the process of figuring out a specific diagnosis with my doctors, but with every passing day of intense pain, nausea, and swelling, the hope that this illness isn't chronic is fading.
That means that I'm probably going to be one of the millions of Americans coping with a preexisting condition in a political atmosphere that's openly hostile to the sick right now. According to a study of the AHCA completed by the Avalere Health Consulting Firm (which is the best source of information right now, since Republicans pushed the legislation through the House of Representatives before the Congressional Budget Office could score its theoretical impact on the country), less than 5 percent of people with preexisting conditions will be covered.
Until recently, I didn't think that I would be affected by this legislation that much, if at all. I've always been relatively healthy, and I'm lucky enough to get a great education that will allow me to provide for myself financially. I don't even plan on having kids, so while the maternity coverage debate infuriated me, it also spurred me to action; I knew I needed to defend those for whom this provision would be a significant burden. Less than a month ago, I was committed to fighting this bill with every fiber of my being.
Assuming you are in the same position that I was just a few weeks ago, let me tell you how f*cking terrifying it is to be where I am now. As if the possibility of facing a lifelong illness wasn't scary and depressing enough, now I may not ever be able to afford health insurance. The direction of my life is being taken out of my hands, in more ways than one. And as much as this illness physically hurts, having to sit back and watch Congressional Republicans throw away my future hurts a lot too.
Now, I may not be able to fight back as hard as I hoped I could, and it's up to others to pick up the slack. The millions of people who are in my same position, or much worse, they want to be out there fighting back for their rights. However, that's almost impossible when you have to spend time fighting against your insurance company and your body as well. If you're healthy, it's up to you to advocate for those who aren't.
Right now, I'm scared and tired and in pain, and I'm counting on others to push forward while I try to heal, or simply just cope. This illness was already one of the biggest personal challenges I've ever faced, even without the possibility of unaffordable or no health insurance looming over my future.
As I try to protect my body, I, and the millions of others across America dealing with chronic illnesses, will need people to help protect our rights.