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Build Health Care Back Better

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., and Health Care Advocates Call for Action to Lower Costs and Improve Health Care for New Jerseyans. (Photo: Flickr/Protect Our Care)

Please contact your Senators and Representative today and ask them to vote for the Build Back Better bill with all the health care provisions included, because care can't wait and neither can we.

I am writing this from a bus somewhere in West Virginia. It’s lightly raining, and the air is chill to the touch. We are headed to an unknown location, or at least it’s unknown to me.

I’m on this bus because four years ago I walked into a doctor’s office with a nagging cough and walked out with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. The Affordable Care Act saved my life, and I am in remission today.

In so many ways, I am one of the lucky ones. Too many Americans have not been able to get the health care they so desperately need. While we build momentum towards a day when every American has health care, Congress has a chance to make our system better now.

Nobody should have to live like this. Why do Americans pay more than any other country for our medications?

We need to lower the cost of Affordable Care Act health insurance plans. Permanently.

We need to fill the Medicaid gap. The poorest residents of states like Florida, Georgia, Texas and North Carolina deserve quality health care, even when conservative politicians prioritize right wing praise ahead of the lives of their constituents.

We need to strengthen Medicare to finally include vision, dental and hearing, because every part of the body needs access to health care.

We need to fully fund home and community based services, so seniors and people with disabilities can stay at home if they choose rather than being forced to live in an institution due to lack of home care options.

We need to increase Supplemental Security Income (SSI), so seniors and people with disabilities are not forced into abject poverty.

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And finally, we need to tackle the outrageous costs of prescription drugs in America, and use the savings from cutting Big Pharma’s obscene profits to help pay for better health care for all.

My cancer was Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer caused by a broken immune system. My form of treatment, chemotherapy, dismantled the faulty parts. But it turns out that having an immune system is kind of important for humans. My oncologist prescribed a medication, Neulasta, to help my immune system build back faster from treatment. That drug cost $13,000. My insurance wouldn’t cover it, so I went without. And I wound up with an infection, spent a week in the hospital, and nearly died.

Nobody should have to live like this. Why do Americans pay more than any other country for our medications? In my case, the drug was built on discoveries that we the taxpayers already paid for. Most major drugs are. Yet we pay again and again, until too many Americans can’t afford to pay any more.

But right now Congress can take action! They are working on Build Back Better, a budget reconciliation bill which would include every priority I listed.

We just need our representatives to have the will to vote for human infrastructure, too.

Every vote matters, as there are only 50 Senators and 220 Congressional Representatives willing to entertain the idea of voting for this bill. Unfortunately Republicans refuse to listen to their constituents on the desperate need to improve our health care. So we will need every last vote from Democrats to get this passed.

That’s why I joined a national bus tour of Protect Our Care, a non-profit focused on health care reform. I’m traveling coast to coast to share our stories, and pressure our lawmakers to answer to their constituents over Big Pharma, Big Insurance and other moneyed special interests. We started off in Maine, and four weeks later we’ll finish in California and Nevada.

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I’m setting aside my summer to go on the road because it’s just that important. We have a once in a generation chance to rebuild our health care system, and we must not blow it. Please contact your Senators and Representative today and ask them to vote for the Build Back Better bill with all the health care provisions included, because care can’t wait and neither can we.

Laura Packard
Common Dreams