An Open Letter to Congressman Mo Brooks

Congressman Brooks-

You don’t know me and I’m not one of your constituents, but I’m writing to you anyway because you said something earlier this week that I think needs a response.

I will be very upfront with my biases. I’m a democrat. I’m a far left, war hating, abortion rights protecting, climate change accepting, welfare protecting liberal. Probably what you’d call a snowflake to your friends. Probably we were never going to agree on healthcare as I have been a proponent of the ACA from day one, but I believe strongly that civil discourse is the foundation of civilization, so I am writing to you despite all of the above facts.

Earlier this week, in an interview, you suggested that people with pre-existing conditions, those who were finally protected under the ACA and stand to lose A LOT under the AHCA, don’t lead good lives. Specifically, you said that the AHCA will be an improvement as it will work at “…reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy.” And that “…right now, those are the people who have done things the right way that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”

So basically, sick people will pay more because clearly they have done something to deserve their conditions and they should pay more than a healthy person to receive medical care for them. I think that was the gist of your comment.

Congressman Brooks, I’d like to tell you the story of a pair of brothers I know.

The older brother was born a profoundly, blissfully healthy baby. 6 perfect pounds and 15 gorgeous ounces of healthy baby boy. He had your average first year of life colds from attending daycare (a necessity due to having working parents who had to leave him at 12 weeks to pay back their student loans, another issue for another time), but by your definition, he was leading a “good life.” He even liked vegetables and ate them daily.

When this boy was 10 months old, he crawled off a bed and hit his head on a very hard floor. He was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (a large subdural hematoma) later that day and spent several days in the hospital. His medical chart will forever be emblazoned with the TBI diagnosis and while his latest MRI was normal, we don’t fully know what all the long term consequences will be.

He is one of those people who you feel is not living a good life- he’s a person with a pre-existing condition. A person who before the ACA, would not have been able to get even remotely reasonably priced health insurance. Because he fell off a bed. Does he not deserve the same healthcare at the same cost as you? Or is that one incident such an indicator of a “bad life” that for his whole lifetime his healthcare costs should be higher than yours, like some sort of terrible healthcare penance?

Or how about his brother? Born healthy following an unremarkable pregnancy and delivery. He was the most lovely, happy, healthy growing baby until he hit 4 months old. At 4 months his loose upper esophageal sphincter and over production of stomach acid caused him so much discomfort that he could not eat. That he began having pseudoseizures from the pain. He was breastfeeding, which is pretty much as high quality a diet as you can get, which I think should mean that for all intents and purposes, he was living a good life, and yet, he was diagnosed with GERD. A diagnosis that will follow him forever. Where did he go wrong in his journey? Why does his GERD mean that he shouldn’t get the same healthcare you get at the same cost? Have you never popped an antacid? Does that mean you are not living a good life?

Maybe you weren’t talking about my kids when you made that comment, in fact, I’m sure you think you weren’t because you don’t really think that a nearly 5 year old and a 2.5 year old are to blame for their pre-existing conditions. Except, you actually do. They are the exact kind of people whose healthcare will cost more and who will have fewer insurance options to choose from, because in their earliest months of life, before they knew up from down, they were given a diagnosis that cannot be discharged from their medical histories. Because one had the misfortune of falling off a tall bed and because the other inherited a loose sphincter.

Explain to me why it should cost more for them to see their pediatrician when they have an ear ache than it would a child who didn’t have a TBI or didn’t have GERD? Explain to me why they should not be able to get the exact same coverage as your grandchildren at the very same cost?

Why should our children (oh, spoiler alert, they’re my kids) not be covered at the exact same cost as every other nearly 5 year old and 2.5 year old? We already pay more because they have gone to the doctor more (hence copays and testing that is not covered) and because one of them was hospitalized, do we need further penalties? We’re not asking for free healthcare for our kids. We are happy to pay for insurance and pay our copays and do what needs to be done. We’re asking that their healthcare be the same cost for them as for every other child. That they not be punished for pre-existing conditions that they can do nothing about.

Why should anyone who has the misfortune of needing to access healthcare have to pay more than a person who doesn’t? And why do you and several hundred other old white men get to decide if people are leading “good enough lives” to get the same coverage you have at the same cost?

Before you make comments about people deserving their pre-existing conditions, please consider how you’d feel if one of your 8 grandkids had a pre-existing condition that they didn’t somehow “earn” for themselves. Or if your loved was diagnosed with a cancer that wasn’t the result of some poor choice on their part. Would you want them to suffer or their family to be bankrupted to get them the same essential care that you have access to because of your health insurance plan?

When you have a moment, I’d love to hear any suggestions you may have for teaching infants to lead good lives. See, my third son is due in August and I’d hate for him to follow in his brothers’ footsteps of unhealthy living.

Sincerely,
Katie

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