Make America Great By Ensuring Access to Health Care
The story of my American Dream began later in life. I spent many years in Ohio working for a major airline. Like many companies hard hit by the recession, my unit was closed and my co-workers and I laid off. I accepted a buyout package and decided to pursue my dream of becoming an entrepreneur in Southern California.
However, soon after I completed the move to Irvine, my American Dream came crashing down. I learned that the terms of my buyout agreement had changed, and the money I was relying on to live was no longer available. I struggled to find other work and relied on the help of friends and family, social services such as food stamps, and there was even a moment where I was temporarily homeless.
While there are many stresses that come with homelessness, one that was top of mind was my health. I no longer had access to health care and was not able to afford it on my own. A constant anxiety I had was what I would do if I got sick or required serious medical attention. Would I be able to access care? Would I be turned away? A routine medical situation that could easily be addressed under normal circumstances could quickly become lethal.
While I was concerned about my health, the recurring fear I had was of becoming just another statistic. It is difficult to measure the mental cost I endured in constantly worrying about my health, a cost that made an already tough situation, even more difficult.
Thankfully, however, this wasn’t the end to my story. Soon after my experience with homelessness, enrollment for the Affordable Care Act began and I was able to access health insurance. Even though I was still working to get back on my feet, I now had the security of having health care, knowing that even if something were to happen to me, it would be taken care of. The mental relief that provided me cannot be overstated.
The Affordable Care Act helped give me the cushion I needed as I began to build up my life again. I am grateful to legislators who have fought for increased access and to those who continue fighting to protect it. In California, we are largely past the idea of repealing health care with state legislators working to expand not reduce access. However, the same cannot be said for our representatives in D.C.
I am disappointed and hurt that my representative, Mimi Walters, is one of those Congress members fighting tooth and nail to take away health care from working class Americans such as myself. The Affordable Care Act has tremendous benefits for our community, the community Walters was elected to represent. It has protected millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions from being denied health insurance, expanded Medicaid for low-income families, and increased funding for mental health care.
Despite the benefits members of the district have experienced as a result of the ACA, Walters continues to put the interests of big business above her constituents. Since she took office in 2015, she has voted seven times to repeal the ACA while accepting nearly $500,000 in donations from health care PACs and employees.
These decisions are easy to make for people in power who have guaranteed access to health care but get to decide the fate of millions of Americans. She will never have to experience the stress of worrying if the next flu or cold could become a matter of life or death. I choose to tell my story because it is easy to forget that when we talk about health care policy, we are talking about real people.
If our current administration and its allies are truly interested in making America great again and reinventing the American Dream, they would begin by ensuring every person, no matter their background or circumstances, has access to affordable health care.
Walter Randolph, of Irvine, is a member of the Orange County Voter Information Project, promoting voter registration and civic engagement in the coming elections.