The power of personal stories

By Matthew F., Reno, Nevada

For months, Nevadans have been trying to get representatives like Sen. Dean Heller to listen to them — to really understand what an Obamacare repeal would mean for millions of people.

Nevadans, like those in many states across the country, would be hit hard by efforts to end Medicaid as we know it. Last week, with the latest repeal effort being rushed through the Senate, a group of volunteers flew out to meet with Senator Heller in Washington D.C. to tell him, face to face, just how critical health care is for them — and explain why repeal would be devastating.

One of these volunteers is Vivian.

Vivian was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1999, before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) came along. At the time, her partner was in an industry that provided broad group coverage. As a consequence, they were only able to consider jobs that would get Vivian into bigger pools where the insurers waived her pre-existing requirements as long as she had been continuously covered.

In 2016, Vivian and her family switched over to the ACA, which freed her from the fear of untreated illness, disability, and bankruptcy. It also gave her the freedom to make her own career choices, no longer dependent on what certain workplace insurers provided.

Today, she is an advocate for accessible and affordable health care, volunteering for multiple organizations in Reno, NV, including OFA, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood. She has lobbied her legislators during the Nevada session to get important bills passed concerning women’s reproductive rights, as well as other issues — and she’s also attended rallies, met with the press, and led visits to members of Congress’ offices.

When Vivian went to see Sen. Heller last week, she wasn’t alone — she was joined by Jet and Lysa, both cancer patients; Dan, who has liver disease, and Cindy, who, along with her daughter, are both battling cystic fibrosis.

When meeting with Senator Heller, they took the time to each tell their personal stories and stress how their access to coverage would be negatively impacted by this bill — how their lives and livelihoods would be affected. Though Senator Heller made clear he was busy, all five volunteers were able to share their stories. After hearing these powerful personal stories, Heller noted that the bill could affect his family too, and told these Nevada volunteers he opposed the bill as it stood, stressing that he didn’t foresee tweaks that would get him to “yes.”

A huge shout out to all of these folks, and to everyone who’s been working hard alongside them here in Nevada. It’s making a difference.

Originally published at

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