A year after Congressman Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) voted to remove protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions, a new poll shows 89 percent of Americans say those protections are important.
A June poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows “most of the public — including majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and independents — say it is ‘very important’ to them that the ACA’s provisions protecting those with pre-existing conditions remain law.”
Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurance companies had the ability to deny — or charge exorbitantly more for — coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and even pregnancy. Knight voted for the Republican repeal bill that would have removed those protections.
According to Politifact, if the bill Knight voted for would have become law, “Insurers would be able to charge people significantly more if they had a pre-existing condition like heart disease, cancer, diabetes or arthritis – possibly requiring people to pay thousands of dollars extra every year to remain insured.”
Half of Californians have a pre-existing medical condition, including Matthew Wheeler, one of Knight’s constituents.
Wheeler, who shared his health care experiences with SoCal Daily, had a viral infection that went untreated because he didn’t have health insurance. In 2008, that infection led to congestive heart failure and he was rushed to the hospital. His life was saved, but he was prescribed six different medications that he needed to take regularly in order to stay healthy.
After moving, he tried to obtain health insurance, but the insurance company refused to pay for the medication related to his pre-existing condition. So he was only able to take the medication when he could afford it, which was not enough.
When the ACA was signed into law, insurance companies could no longer discriminate against people like Wheeler.
“Without the ACA, I’m not sure I would be here to talk with you,” Wheeler says.
By the time Wheeler obtained adequate health insurance, he developed problems with his kidneys. While still not 40 years old, Wheeler is on regular blood pressure medication and must go to dialysis three times per week. “The ACA may not have been perfect,” Wheeler said, “but my story is proof-positive that it worked.”
As he copes with his own health issues, Wheeler is an outspoken advocate for better heath care.
“Others have it worse than me,” Wheeler said, “so I have to march for them.”
Wheeler, like most Americans, supports provisions in current law that allow people with pre-existing conditions to afford to live.
Knight, on the other hand, sided with Trump in an effort to remove those protections from millions of people like Wheeler.
When asked about his opinion about Knight’s vote to get rid of protections for people like him, Wheeler said, “The lives of his constituents should mean more to him than checks from the Koch brothers, the NRA, or other special interest groups.”
“My story humanizes the issue,” Wheeler says. He is not just a number or a statistic. He’s a person living in California’s 25th Congressional District and fighting every day to ensure those worse off than him have access to quality health care. When asked why he fights so hard, Wheeler’s answer was straightforward.
“I fight like my life depends on it, because it does.”