A Fired Up Letter to Senator Toomey from Your Burnt Down Building of a Constituent

Dear Senator Toomey,

Are you kidding me?

Are you actually kidding me?

“Now one way to force [coverage of preexisting conditions] is to force insurance companies to provide health insurance coverage to someone as soon as they show up, regardless of what condition they have, which is kind of like asking the property/casualty building to rebuild the house after it’s burned down.”

This was the statement you made during the hearings of Tom Price for Secretary of Health and Human Services, when referring to people with chronic conditions who face “unaffordable” health care costs. I’m so mad I can’t even break down why that metaphor is completely nonsensical; I’m stuck on how it’s insulting and degrading.

Look, I’ve tried to be polite. I’ve written calm, rational emails, I’ve called your office, been talked over and interrupted, repeatedly asked to be contacted by a staffer — which I never was — and told my story about living with chronic illness over and over to try and let you see the humanity of the people who are afraid for their lives if the Affordable Care Act is repealed without a secure replacement.

I’m done. I’m done politely asking you to respect my right to life and the right to life of the millions like me who live with disabilities.

The moment you allude to me as a burnt down building is the moment you forfeit any right to civility from me.

Yes, I have a chronic condition. Several, in fact. No, they are not curable. Yes, they are treatable. I take a minimum of 10 pills a day, have a central line, a feeding tube, a gastric pacemaker, and a bag full of IV nutrition funneled directly into my heart every night. I cannot work or even walk for more than a few minutes without feeling sick, and I rely on my parents for my livelihood and health care.

But I am not burnt down. In fact, at this moment, I’m pretty damn fired up.

Dr. Price responded to your statement, “It’s important to appreciate the condition we currently find ourselves in with policy is that those folks [he’s referring to burnt houses — er, people — with chronic conditions] in a short period of time are going to have nothing because of the collapse of the market.”

No, we’re shortly going to have nothing because of you. You may verbally “agree” that people with chronic conditions need to be covered, but you don’t provide a single legislative action that does anything but endanger us. Because of you, my senator, along with the man who is currently my president, and your entire political party, people like me live in daily fear as you systematically strip away our health care.

“High risk pools,” protested your spokesperson later, finally filling in alternatives you never actually listed until you later found yourself under “fire” for your insensitive remarks. Or “incentives for individuals.”

I can’t rely on incentives to maybe put health insurance companies into the mood to provide me health care. They’ve shown themselves to be pretty damn petty. High risk pools come with waiting lists, turned away applicants, annual or lifetime caps that max me out of coverage real fast when my IV nutrition costs $3,000 a week, and, insult to injury, they cost more. But please, tell me more about a health care plan driven by patients instead of bureaucrats. No, I’m serious. Tell me. Because I have no idea what the fuck that means. I have yet to see a real plan from you explaining what the fuck that means, and if you came up with a plan better than The Affordable Care Act, I’d be overcome with joy. I’d run your re-election campaign myself. I don’t need party loyalty; I need health care. But if you think that people with chronic conditions should be abandoned like burnt down buildings, I certainly don’t trust you to come up with a plan more centered around patients than bureaucrats. That sounds like you’re leaving a lot of patients out to burn.

I am not a building. My body is not a car. You cannot run health insurance like humans are expendable. You cannot call yourself pro-life and display such a flagrant disregard for the lives you represent.

I am not burnt down. My body is broken but I am not. I wish I could say the same for you.

See You Next Tuesday,

Leah Holstein