I attended the State of the Union on Tuesday as Sen. Mark Warner’s invited guest. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I am grateful for the opportunity. I never expected to be in a room with the most powerful people in our government; however, it also helped me realize we need more regular people like me in those rooms.
Listening to President Donald Trump speak, I was disappointed and angry. President Trump’s vision for health care in America doesn’t include people like me. I would not be here today if it wasn’t for the Affordable Care Act.
In 2008, I collapsed on the job working at the Newport News shipyard. I lost my health insurance and started drowning in medical debt. For my heart attack they billed me $26,000. Congestive heart failure, $27,000. Prostate cancer surgery, $71,000. Radiation treatment, $51,000. I couldn’t pay those bills. For 10 years, I struggled to get appointments with specialists, follow up on emergency room visits, and fill prescriptions. My health declined. I couldn’t work, lost my housing, and I was unable to be as active in my community as I wanted to be.
Last year, Medicaid expansion changed my life. Medicaid expansion made it possible for me to access preventative care and regular doctor visits. I am healthier and able to give back to my community. And I’m not the only one: Medicaid expansion provides health care coverage to almost 400,000 people in Virginia.