Want to fix health care? Ask a caregiver

I am not a paid protester. I am neither Republican nor Democrat. What I am is a caregiver who has seen the physical, mental, and financial toll that a loved one’s declining health renders on a family. I am concerned about how we, as a country, will pay for health care going forward, as our population rapidly ages. It doesn’t matter whether we call it the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Trumpcare or something else, this should not a political issue. What matters is how we, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, cares for our vulnerable populations.

My father suffered from Alzheimer’s. Medicare covered very little of his care, and Social Security and his pension only covered about half of the monthly expenses. Our modest family savings was quickly drained within a year. He died just before we were going to have to move him to a less expensive, lower-quality facility. My mother was diagnosed with colon cancer shortly thereafter and I had to quit my job to take care of her. Years later, I’m still climbing out of debt, and I’m way behind in retirement savings.

I’m not alone. We should be talking about how to fairly compensate the millions of family caregivers like myself who devote countless hours and spend our life savings to make sure that our loved ones get the care they need. We need more government support right now, not less.

Caregiving is already hard. Those in Congress proposing wholesale repeal of the ACA and their cheerleaders should think long and hard about how their proposals will work in the real world. Congress should be looking for ways to reign in the skyrocketing costs of health care, prescription drugs, and residential care. This should be a bipartisan issue, but sadly, politicians on both side of the aisle have their own agendas. Health care is about human lives, not just buzzwords and statistics. This is the message I’m delivering to my representatives in Washington, and I hope you will as well.

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