An Open Letter to Senator Ron Johnson

Dear Senator Ron Johnson,

Today, I had the worst headache that I have had in a long time. Most likely, it’s from the strain of looking at my computer screen all day or a poor night’s sleep, but what if it was something else? I feel myself being more and more reliant on my glasses, and the medical histories of others I know cause me to pause and ponder, what if at my next eye appointment, the doctor finds a mass at the back of my good eye? I know I need to go to the eye doctor, but part of me wonders if doing so won’t be the start to end. I know this may sound melodramatic, but for someone, this fear will become reality. Bodies fail… even the mighty John McCain must battle his own body for his fate. Your body will fail too, and you will be left with your legacy of making life better for the wealthy and corporations. I hope corporate thank you's are enough to keep your grave warm when the time comes.  

When the time comes that my body begins to fail me, I know you’ll blame me for getting sick. You already blame me for having a vagina. Since you don’t trust me enough to make my own reproductive health decisions, I am unsurprised that you don’t see me as worth the healthcare investment. If I ever become diagnosed, it will be my fault, according to you. On 6/25/2017 on NBC’s Meet the Press, you stated, “We’ve done something with our healthcare system that you never even think about doing, for example, with auto insurance, where you’d require auto insurance companies to sell a policy to somebody after they crashed their car...” I do not know the status of every one of my cells, but nevertheless, you’ll blame me for crashing and causing a pileup of mutants.

According to your staff member Lexi, who I spoke with most recently on 7/24/2017, this quote is taken out of context because “you have a daughter who has a pre-existing condition… and you do care about people.” Either this excuse is the same as saying you aren’t racist because you have one black friend or you don’t understand that people aren’t cars. In a majority of cases, humans are not culpable when their bodies fail. Speeding, forgetting to check a blind spot, or not using your blinker are all human choices; having one’s joints chewed away by one’s own immune system, as in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, is not a choice.

We all will use health insurance. Sometimes, we have to use it because of our mere audacity of being born with an imperfect body. Other times, it’s the audacity of living to years beyond the ever-elusive retirement age. If, as Lexi suggested, you simply misspoke, then the onus is on you to show your citizens that you’ll fight to ensure that everyone with pre-existing conditions will be protected and will not be placed in a high risk pool that will bankrupt them. If you will not do that, then please be more blunt in your message that you do not care who lives or dies. Please say this bluntly and loudly for all those in the back who still believe you are looking out for them.

From everything that I’ve read, and I have read a lot about the Republican repeal efforts, your position on healthcare is that it is not a right. You do not believe that your constituents are entitled to be able to own their own home at the same time that you are accumulating or paying medical bills. You do not believe that healthcare should be affordable for everyone; instead, it should only be affordable, or even inexpensive, for those who still believe that they are invincible because of their youth. Per your position, as soon as knees creek and blood pressure rises, one forfeits the right to be able to financially afford the same quality of life prior to any medical calamities. What you fail to recognize is that by requiring every citizen to purchase health insurance, you have lowered the average cost for everyone. Certainly, some who had very inexpensive policies (and likely coverage to match) are now paying more, but in the spirit of a social contract, citizens participate for the good of the whole, not the individual. Since you are very found of car metaphors, try this out: I willingly pay gas taxes for better roads, even roads that I’ll never travel. You see health insurance as a full-time employment perk equal to the occasional free t-shirts; it’s not necessary, but it’s nice to have.

If I am wrong and you actually do not believe it’s better for only the wealthy to live, show me I am wrong. Be the most pro-healthcare for all advocate. Speak out against any plan that reduces the number of people living in the United States who are covered. Even better, advocate for single-payer healthcare more times that you ask for money for bombs.

In short, I ask you to vote “No” against any efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In addition to my positions outlined above, I have also benefited by being able to stay on my parents’ insurance policy until I was 26, which allowed me to work at the University instead of turning down the job because it did not offer health insurance to limited term employees. The ACA’s mandatory coverage of birth control pills has also saved me at least $360.00 a year in birth control costs, let alone the financial and emotional costs of an unwanted pregnancy. The marketplace helped my husband have health insurance during the months between his college graduation and his first benefits-included position. I am certain we have benefited in other ways, from knowing that our friends and family are able to afford health insurance. I do not worry that I’ll have to bury someone I love merely because a corporation did not bestow their wealth upon them. The availability of the ACA marketplace also ensures that I will not become locked in an unfulfilling job simply because of insurance, which unfortunately is the reality that others face.

I ask you to look beyond your fantasies of humans with Mopar parts, corporations that answer to no one, and a world where only 0.05% of the world’s population holds 99% of total wealth and see the people who make up the communities in your state. Realize that someone in Platteville, WI wants to have a “normal” life—a life not defined by wealth but by laughter and good health. Sconnies want the chance to live a quality life without going bankrupt because of fate’s fickle tricks.  

I will be watching your votes closely, and I hope that you will vote in favor of preserving the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. Vote “No” on any effort to repeal Obamacare, and when opportunities arise to vote on improvements to the ACA, do so when it will give individuals more health benefits or increase national coverage. Your role as a senator is to improve the lives of people living in the United States; do your job.