On June 22nd, the Senate revealed a health care bill that had been secretly crafted over the last several months by Senator Gardner, twelve other Senators and select lobbyists. This bill and the motives behind it strike home for me, for they attack those I love.
My wife, Karen, is a breast cancer survivor. I will never forget walking into the bathroom after she got the biopsy results and seeing her huddled in the tub, covering herself and crying. Karen has been cancer-free for 10 years now, but seeing my wife in that position is something I will always remember.
My daughter, Sofia, will turn 14 in a couple weeks. Next year she will be in the competitive choir in our local middle school. She loves singing, music, dance, her family and her friends. After she was born, she was diagnosed with Down syndrome. She works so hard every day to do the things you and I take for granted.
Earlier this year, when Mike Coffman endorsed the first version of the House repeal bill, stripping away protections for people with pre-existing conditions, I decided I needed to do something more than complain – so I decided to run for Congress to be a voice for families here in the 6th Congressional District. Hearing Congressman Coffman endorse the first Republican bill reminded me of the time when Sofia was two and a half and my son, Brynn, was five months old and Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer. We were faced with a situation that we had never prepared for – the possibility of my wife dying before our kids got to know her.
We didn’t know what the future could bring. What would happen if I lost my job while Karen was in treatment or to Sofia with her condition? I have learned that these very personal questions, these very personal fears, are hardly mine alone. They are shared by families across Colorado, and across our country.
Since Coffman’s endorsement, I have spoken with people I grew up with in the district, with my neighbors, with people at work, with people at my church. I found that my story is not unique, and neither are my fears or concerns for the future. So many of our friends and neighbors have deep worries about their families and what attacks on health care would do to those they love.
Much can be done to fix health care costs that all of us face. This Senate bill does not do that. Coffman’s House bill does not do that. Neither one controls costs, expands coverage or improves care. But each one makes things worse. Each one places Karen, Sofia and Brynn at risk, along with many thousands of others in our community. Each of you has a Karen, a Brynn or a Sofia in your life. Each of you is probably just as scared as Karen and I are.
If the Senate bill passes next week, this tax cut for the wealthy disguised as a health care improvement will risk us all. If you rely on your job to give you health care, if you have family members you care for and want to protect with health insurance, this bill will undermine your ability to provide for and protect your family.
Instead of protecting our families, this Republican bill allows CEOs and institutional investors to pocket more money because it selectively cuts taxes for the top 1%. The rest of us get left behind. Karen, Brynn and Sofia get left out in the cold.
When you read about this bill, as I did, ask yourself, what are they asking you to give up and why? Who are they asking you to give up? Who suffers and who benefits? They are asking me to give up protections for my family, for Karen, Sofia and Brynn.
Call Coffman’s office. Call Senator Cory Gardner’s office. Call Senator Michael Bennet’s office. Tell each of them that this bill is wrong for Colorado’s families. Tell them your story. Our stories, our lives, will communicate these matters more personally and more powerfully than anything else. We need and have the right to expect our elected officials to represent us. Tell your story and hold them accountable if they listen to their party instead of their constituents. Our families are depending on it.
The next time you’re sitting at the intersection at Havana and East Sixth Avenue, at Iliff and Buckley, or at Parker and Quincy and you see someone run a red light, remember that that person might have run into you. Or your spouse. Or your child. Insurance is supposed to be there when we need it the most. Because we are all one traffic accident away from a tragedy, from needing insurance.
David Aarestad is an Aurora resident and is seeking the Democratic nomination for the 6th Congressional District 2018 election. He is a clinical trials contract attorney for the University of Colorado at Anschutz.