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Patients Call on Senators to Reject Graham-Cassidy Health Bill; Urge Bipartisan Action on Health Care

September 25, 2017

Washington, D.C., September 25, 2017— Dozens of patients from across the country, each with their own personal health care story, gathered on Capitol Hill today to urge their senators to preserve quality health care coverage for millions of Americans and reject the pending Graham-Cassidy health care legislation. The event was organized by the nation’s leading patient and public interest groups, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, urging senators to “protect patients now.”

During the press event, patients expressed strong opposition to many of the proposed legislation’s key provisions, including eliminating premium subsidies that help low-and moderate-income people buy private coverage—effectively shutting down the individual insurance marketplace as we know it. And, in states that seek waivers, allowing insurers to charge people with pre-existing conditions more for their insurance coverage and rolling back the number of services insurers must cover under the essential health benefits.

Ashley Murosky, 24, of Wayne, Pennsylvania, was a sophomore in college when she was diagnosed with a rare genetic form of Stage II non-small cell lung cancer. After three years in remission, her cancer returned and she is now fighting Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer. Currently, she purchases her healthcare through the individual marketplace.

“In 2015, when I purchased my own health insurance, I was not penalized or charged more because of my pre-existing condition. With this Graham-Cassidy bill, I could be,” Murosky stated.  “I know firsthand that our healthcare system isn’t perfect, but just taking it all away from people like me who need it would be devastating.  The 32 million Americans who could lose healthcare, we are real people, we are not just a number, which is why I am here today to ask the Senate to vote no on the Graham-Cassidy bill.”

In 2003 Jodi Lemacks’ son, Josh, was born with congenital heart disease and had to have three or more open heart surgeries in just his first three years of life.  The Virginia family struggled with staggering medical bills and, before the current patient protections were passed, worried Josh would eventually be unable to get insurance because of his pre-existing condition. If Graham-Cassidy becomes law, Jodi fears fear they’ll be right back in the same situation.

“I want our lawmakers to know if the safeguards provided by the Affordable Care Act disappear, they will be putting the life of my son and other children like him in serious jeopardy,” Lemacks said.  “As Jimmy Kimmel pointed out, most Americans aren’t as lucky as he is when it comes to being able to afford the best medical care. I call on the Senate to reject this bill and work toward a more bipartisan proposal.”

Steve Taylor, a three-time cancer survivor from Alaska, relies on expensive monthly injections to keep his genetic form of pancreatic cancer in check. Each injection costs more than $10,000, but without it his tumors would grow and lead to his early death. Proposed insurance changes in the pending Graham-Cassidy legislation could allow insurance plans in certain states to cap or opt out of treatments like prescription drugs, leaving Taylor with few, if any, options for his care.

“With my health history any possible caps on coverage would pose a serious threat to my physical and financial health,” said Taylor. “I can’t afford $10,000 a month, but what option would I have? I just hope Senator Murkowski and her colleagues consider the real consequences of this bill and vote no.”

The patients, representing millions across the country with chronic diseases, are meeting with senators and their staff throughout the day.  All of the patients stressed that having health coverage is essential and called on their senators to reject the current Graham-Cassidy health proposal and return to a bipartisan approach to improve the current law.

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Protect Patients NOW event participants includeACS CAN, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, ALS Association, American Liver Foundation, American Lung Association, Arthritis Foundation, Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, Consumers Union, Epilepsy Foundation, Family Voices, Lutheran Services In America, March of Dimes, National Health Council, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, National Organization for Rare Disorders, United Way, Volunteers of America, and WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.

Media Contacts:

Allison Miller, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, 202-585-3241, Allison.Miller@cancer.org
Danielle Veira, American Diabetes Association, 703-253-4843, DVeira@diabetes.org
Retha Sherrod, American Heart Association, 202-785-7929, retha.sherrod@heart.org
Allison MacMunn, American Lung Association, 312-801-7628, Media@Lung.org
Kara Kelber, Consumers Union, 202-462-6262, Kara.Kelber@consumer.org
Eileen Curran, National MS Society, 617-719-3202, Eileen.curran@nmss.org