Commentary: Efforts to remove ACA mandates could harm those with preexisting conditions

Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) in the House of Representatives on Jan. 24, 2017. The congresswoman has voted in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act.
(Getty Images)

Last week, the Justice Department put another nail in the coffin of access to healthcare when it announced it wasn’t going to defend key provisions of the Affordable Care Act against a legal challenge in Texas. The department is asking a court to declare it unconstitutional to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions.

Republicans in Congress have been trying to kill off the ACA for years. Local Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) has voted more than 50 times to repeal the ACA, but no matter how many times he and other Republicans try, they haven’t been able to drum up enough support to wipe out the ACA’s popular consumer protections.

Now the Trump administration is taking the backdoor approach to killing off the law by trying to have it invalidated by a court. I will never understand the Republican zeal for allowing insurers to discriminate and prevent the millions of Americans who have preexisting conditions from accessing affordable healthcare coverage.

Without this provision of the ACA, I would likely not be here today.

My story began almost eight years ago when I thought I had it all. I had my own business, had just bought my own home and was a single mom to an amazing daughter who was my world.

All of that changed when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. Soon after, I was diagnosed with severe depression as a result of that condition.

My world was forever changed. I lost my small business — and my access to health care — because I was no longer able to work. I didn’t qualify for local health care programs, and my MS and depression went untreated for over two years while I remained uninsured.

It is hard to remember much during this time, but what I do remember is the unbearable loss. Yes, I lost my business and lost my health care, and was unable to engage in most daily activities, but the biggest loss of all was my daughter losing her mother; as she grew from a teenager into a beautiful young woman I was unable to be there for her during some of the most formative years of her life.

I lived that time in constant despair. I awoke most mornings with my hands clenched into fists as a result of my physical and emotional pain, experienced even while I slept.

Enrollment for the ACA began in 2013, and I was finally able to receive treatment for my MS and depression. Even though the road to recovery has been gradual and difficult, I finally had hope. The change I witnessed in myself was miraculous; I transformed from someone who couldn’t get out of bed most days to the parent I needed to be.

The ACA has been instrumental in getting my life back and in giving my daughter her mother back. I am grateful to the legislators who fought for access and to those who continue fighting to protect it. Thankfully, in California, state legislators are seeking to expand coverage rather than reduce it, but the same cannot be said for our congressional members in D.C.

Instead of working toward fixing the ACA and shoring up protections for all of us who struggle to afford and obtain health insurance, my member of Congress, Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine), celebrated the House passing the repeal bill last year by taking grinning selfies in the the White House Rose Garden. That bill ultimately failed because enough people saw that it would have reduced coverage and increased costs for Orange County residents like me.

If the protections for people with preexisting conditions are eliminated, I don’t know what will happen to my health or my access to affordable coverage.

When elected officials talk about health care policy in the abstract, it can be easy to forget that their decisions have impacts on real people.

This is why I choose to tell my story. When our government is actively trying to kill a critical law that protects our access to health care, I want them to remember what’s at stake for their constituents.

KIM ADAMS lives in Tustin.