Quigley Speaks with IL-05 Constituent, Diana, About ACA Benefits & Republican Repeal Attempts
CHICAGO – In response to Republicans’ misguided attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) spoke with several of his constituents who have benefited from the historic law. In a series of #TrumpCareStories videos, Rep. Quigley will share personal stories about how the Affordable Care Act has improved his constituents’ quality of life, and why repealing the law would be devastating to them and millions more. Watch his conversation with Diana, a woman with cerebral palsy living in Bucktown:
Click here for the video or see full transcript below.
QUIGLEY: Hi, I’m Congressman Mike Quigley. I’m joined today by Diana. She lives in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood and was born with cerebral palsy. She’s here to talk to us today about what the ACA healthcare law meant to her, what the Republican attempts to repeal it might mean, and how we move forward together. Welcome, Diana, how are you?
DIANA: Thank you for having me! I’m doing well, thank you so much for letting me speak and share my story about the ACA and how it’s had a huge impact on my life over these last several years.
QUIGLEY: And how was your life before the law became put in place?
DIANA: So before the law came into place, I was an individual who wanted to work in a nonprofit, wanted to do a lot of good in my community and in order to do that meant accepting a job that didn’t have health insurance, so as I was originally investigating my options for both employment and for health insurance, I went and I talked to a lot of the private exchanges and I explained to them that I’m an individual with cerebral palsy. It’s a permanent physical disability but it’s not something that impairs my day-to-day healthcare. I don’t use my health insurance any differently than anybody else - I don’t seek a lot of different medical care throughout my adult life and I explained that I’m a really healthy and active individual – I’ve done marathons, I’ve done triathlons, I’ve stayed active – I go to the gym, I workout, I eat well, all those things that the doctors tell you you’re supposed to do. So I told the insurance companies all of this and unfortunately, prior to the ACA, 3 or 4 different companies still denied my application for healthcare.
QUIGLEY: And their reason was the pre-existing condition.
DIANA: They didn’t see me as a person who was active and healthy, they saw me as a label. No matter what I do in my life, I will always retain that label of ‘disabled.’ Personally, the pre-existing condition will follow me no matter what I do, no matter how healthy I am, no matter what life choices I make. Before the ACA, I wasn’t able to get health insurance from some of the nation’s biggest providers.
QUIGLEY: And you couldn’t, therefore, work the way you wanted to, where you wanted to, doing what you wanted.
DIANA: Exactly. It really colored my employment choices, it colored a lot of the decisions I made in my life as to what I did professionally, recognizing that healthcare was always that thing looming in the background. If I chose to work a community-based job and give back tp my community, and do all of the things that I wanted to do, I knew that having healthcare wasn’t necessarily a guarantee.
QUIGLEY: And the ACA has signed into law, how are things changed for you?
DIANA: The ACA signing into law made a huge difference for me. I don’t use my health insurance every day so my day to day hasn’t really changed all that much, but I have premiums that I know I can afford. They’re premiums that I know I can get insurance should I ever need to use that coverage, I recognize there are certain protections within that coverage that’ll help me out if needed – and, just like everyone else, on a day-to-day basis, I benefit from those preventative care screenings and from all of the health and wellness initiatives that are built into the ACA right now.
QUIGLEY: And you’re doing what you want to do now?
DIANA: I’m doing what I want to do. I have a great job, I’m working in a great nonprofit that gives back to the community and serves others and I feel like I’m really making a difference and my ability to do that is directly linked to my ability to have health care.
QUIGLEY: All right, and obviously you know the president and our Republican colleagues are trying to repeal that. How does that, how do you react to that?
DIANA: That is pretty terrifying. It definitely scares me that I may potentially lose some access to health care, either outright or simply by being priced out of the market. Even if the pre-existing condition pools come into being and they say ‘folks with pre-existing conditions are still allowed to have health care, you just have to pay 6 or 7 times more for it,’ that, to me, as a nonprofit professional, will change my entire life. It’ll change the jobs that I work; the financial stability that I have, my ability to use health care -
QUIGLEY: The cost prohibitive to the point where you can’t do -
DIANA: I would have no choice –
QUIGLEY: Even if they still allow for pre-existing conditions –
DIANA: I would have no choice but to choose to not have healthcare. If costs and premiums got out of hand through the pre-existing condition pools, that would make it simply unaffordable.
QUIGLEY: And how would you describe living with cerebral palsy to folks who don’t even know what it is?
DIANA: So…cerebral palsy impacts the messages that my muscles send to my brain… or my brain send to my muscles. So my brain tells my muscles to be rather stiff and to be rather spastic. It impacts my gait pattern. When I walk, I walk with a bit of a limp. It’s something that’ll never go away but it’s something that if I take proper care of myself, if I seek preventative sorts of health and wellness things – if I stay active, if I stay going to the gym and being involved and doing all sorts of things in the community and using my muscles, you use it or you lose it. That has really helped me to maintain fitness… I did the Chicago marathon a couple of years ago –
QUIGLEY: Nice, congratulations. That’s great.
DIANA: Thank ya… I’ve done the Chicago Triathlon. There are a lot of misconceptions out there that people with disabilities are inherently unhealthy. ‘People with disabilities can’t do all the same things that other people can do.’ ‘People with disabilities are gonna need to use their healthcare a lot.’ And for some folks that is true and I certainly support the fact that everyone in the United States has a right to care and has a right to live their best life possible… but the other side of this whole conversation, the other side of this debate is there are a lot of people out there who are simply gonna be harmed by the labels. I haven’t had anything more than a common head cold for the last several years. Throughout my entire adult life, I have not sought major medical care for disability. I don’t use my health insurance any differently than you do, but that label of ‘disabled’ – that label of ‘pre-existing condition’ puts me in those high-risk pools, puts me in a situation where I’m now feeling, fearing for my employment security, fearing for my healthcare security -
QUIGLEY: So what’s the biggest concern you have – that you lose the job you want or you just can’t get benefits at all?
DIANA: I simply can’t stay at a job that I love because I’d lose access to the healthcare exchanges. And if I choose to work at an agency that doesn’t offer healthcare – that’s no longer a choice. There are a lot of very small businesses, very small nonprofits that simply don’t have the ability to offer healthcare right now and if you take away the public option, you really limit possibilities for those with disabilities, those seeking employment, so, economically, it’s a pretty limiting factor for folks.
QUIGLEY: And is that what you would say to the president or Republicans who’re trying to repeal it – if you had a chance to talk to them just like this, what would you tell them about yourself and everybody else who faces pre-existing conditions?
DIANA: I would tell them that we live in one of the greatest countries on earth and as part of that, we all deserve basic rights to care, basic access to care – if we work together to prevent health issues from happening before they do by giving people the means to seek annual appointments and seek care before it becomes a major issue, you’re gonna reduce healthcare costs and you’re gonna make it easier for folks to live their best lives. It’s really important that everyone in this country, whether they have a disability, whether they don’t, whether they’re high-income, whether they’re low-income – access to quality health care is incredibly important for everyone and –
QUIGLEY: It sounds like you’re describing this as fairness and justice and equality in a country that prides itself on that.
DIANA: It is. It’s one of those things – I spend my life working in the nonprofit sector, doing more with less and recognizing that not everything great in life is built on a for-profit model. I think healthcare is one of those things that simply is a basic right and a basic tool that we should all have access to in this society, even if it’s not the best thing for the profit margins of the companies that are running the health insurance exchanges, we as a country have to come together and figure out how we can provide healthcare to citizens in a way that works for all of us.
QUIGLEY: Wow. (Laughs). Well I hope and I certainly from this means we are gonna try to give the Republicans an opportunity to hear your story, and to hear from a lot of people who are facing similar circumstances, so, I am proud to meet you and yours is an amazing story. I want to thank you for taking time out –
DIANA: Thank you so much!
QUIGLEY: - to share that story and good luck in the future –
DIANA: Thank you.
QUIGLEY: - and let us know if we can help.
DIANA: Thank you so much.
QUIGLEY: Sure. Take care.