A Letter to Congress

A Letter to Congress

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The Republican-proposed replacement of Obamacare, the American Health Care Act (ACHA), was recently dropped due to a failure to get enough support to pass. Estimates by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office that the proposed health care bill would leave 24 million more people uninsured than the current uninsured population may have put the nail in the coffin for the ACHA. It was also thousands of calls and communications to US Senators and House Representatives opposing the Republican's healthcare bill that made a huge difference. Zach's letter below is one of those communications. 

Very recently, the House Republicans rallied enough support to pass a healthcare bill in their first step toward replacing Obamacare, which blindsided many people and has instilled terror in the hearts and minds of people with type 1 diabetes. We share Zach's letter with the hope that his passion and arguments will be useful as we keep the pressure on to ensure a better deal for people with diabetes. 

Dear Representative,

I write to you today as a young American with serious concerns for the future of health care in this country, namely with the GOP’s proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA). My health situation forces a more elevated interest in the current health care debate compared to many of my young peers because I have type 1 diabetes. My fellow diabetics and I (who number around 30 million in the US) rely on access to affordable prescriptions and health care for our very survival. When I say my concerns are serious, I am not exaggerating.

The AHCA’s inadequacy in providing all Americans with reasonable options to afford vital prescriptions and care could leave many people with diabetes unable to afford their insulin, putting them at risk of death. I agree that our nation is in need of health care reform but the AHCA is a hasty, ill planned response that ignores the root issues concerning health care in the USA.

As a self-employed, 25-year-old type 1 diabetic, my current healthcare situation can be compared to a ticking time bomb. I currently receive top-notch health care under my father’s corporate coverage and am able to manage my diabetes very well. However, my 26th birthday is in December. At that time, I will lose my health insurance and be forced to enter the market for a health plan that covers the astronomical costs of living with type 1 diabetes in the US.

The solution proposed by the AHCA of health care tax credits awarded for those who do not receive care from work or government programs is not viable. While I appreciate that I cannot be denied coverage for my pre-existing condition, the proposed tax credits of $2,000 - $4,000 a year simply will not be enough to allow me to comfortably afford the care I need to survive without somehow greatly increasing my income. According to the American Diabetes Association, "People with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year, of which about $7,900 is attributed to diabetes."

Some may suggest I seek a job that offers health coverage in order to afford health care, but the AHCA would eliminate this as an option by dropping the mandate requiring employers to offer health insurance. The current job market is already highly competitive and if companies do not offer adequate coverage for people with type 1 diabetes, I will be left with next to no options. If I found a job but rejected the insurance offer that was inadequate for my needs, I would not be eligible for the tax credits under the AHCA.

Because of Republicans insistence on limiting government mandates, I fear the AHCA will not succeed in balancing out the health insurance risk pool, causing premiums to increase continually. The Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate failed to balance the risk pool and was widely unpopular, but the AHCA’s proposed solution will also fail and cause financial strife for many. Allowing insurance providers to increase rates by 30% for 12 months for anyone with a break in coverage of 63 days or more is not a great enough incentive to encourage healthy people to buy insurance.

If insurance is unaffordable now, most will wait it out in hopes they can afford it when they need it. Then when they need it, they will not be able to afford it. This leaves Americans paying ridiculous premiums in order to keep care providers' shareholders happy.

I mentioned before that the AHCA ignores the root issue with health care in the US. That issue is the criminally high prices of prescriptions and care in this country. Instead of going back and forth on whether to rollback Medicaid, or how to balance the risk pool, action needs to be taken against large corporations who are profiting from sick Americans.

For example, look at the price of insulin, which is the hormone type 1 diabetics must inject themselves with multiple times a day to stay alive. From 2002 to 2013 the price of insulin increased 197% in the US. From January 2013 to October 2016 the price of Lantus, a popular insulin (one of two I take every day) increased 60% from $240 to $380.

The US ranks first in the world in out of pocket costs for insulin and diabetes supplies. You can see from this survey by T1International comparing cost of insulin in the US to other countries that America is paying more than any other country.

If the AHCA passes, I am out of options. The reality of this situation has forced me to seek out care in other countries so that I can afford to survive. That fact is absolutely crushing. I may have to leave my home so that I can afford a medication that keeps me alive. I feel abandoned and neglected by my Government. There is no justifiable reason for insulin and vital prescriptions and care to be twice as expensive here than in other countries.

By directing legislation towards lowering these criminal prices, we would solve most of the issues the AHCA attempts to solve. If Americans could simply afford the care they need to survive, we would not be having such a monumental health care debate. In a country as great as ours, no one should be without health care.

I appreciate your time and hope you will work towards fair health care legislation that controls costs and provides affordable coverage options for all Americans.


Zachary Toth

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