The Satake family of Spokane didn’t need to travel to the other Washington to appreciate the impact of national politics on their daily lives.
They see it every day with 17-year-old Jake, a senior at North Central High School, who four years ago was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
Thanks to an insulin pump strapped to his belt, treatment is convenient, easy and reasonably priced – thanks to the protection of pre-existing conditions under the Affordable Care Act.
Without that shield, Jake and his family would be hit with thousands of dollars in bills for insulin bottles, sensors and other supplies.
To emphasize that point, Sen. Maria Cantwell invited the Satakes to the nation’s capital for the State of the Union Address of President Donald Trump, who has pushed to strip some of those protections.
Suddenly, the latest pre-existing condition for millions of Americans is fear – of hardship, penury or worse.
“For me personally, that is the difference between living a comfortable, steady life, to having to ration my insulin, rationing food costs,” Satake said Monday by phone from Washington, D.C.
“It would be catastrophic,” said Satake, who has seen tragedy first-hand. A family friend, now in his 20s, is losing his sight and feeling in his feet after scaling back on costly insulin injections.
In that context, the museums and monuments in Washington, D.C., were figurative molehills.
Along with his mother, Katie, and younger sister, Olivia, Jake also was in the U.S. Capitol on Monday for closing arguments in the impeachment trial of President Trump.
“It’s awesome to be here,” he said. “No matter how you view it, it’s a very historic moment in our country, as well as the current health care that has been under attack.”
There’s been some debate as to who’s doing the attacking.
On Jan. 15, Trump tweeted, “I was the person who saved Pre-Existing Conditions in your healthcare, you have it now, while at the same time winning the fight to rid you of the expensive, unfair and very unpopular Individual Mandate.”
However, as fact-checkers from the Associated Press noted, one of Trump’s major alternatives to the Affordable Care Act is that insurers wouldn’t be required to cover pre-existing conditions.
Another major alternative is association health plans, which are oriented to small businesses and sole proprietors and do cover pre-existing conditions.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has been pressing for the full repeal of the Obama-era law, including provisions that protect people with pre-existing conditions from health insurance discrimination.
With Obamacare still in place, pre-existing conditions continue to be covered by regular individual health insurance plans.
Before the Affordable Care Act, any insurer could deny coverage – or charge more – to anyone with a pre-existing condition who was seeking to buy an individual policy.
Sen. Cantwell has sent several letters to the Trump administration opposing the administration’s stance to not defend the ACA and not protect individuals with pre-existing conditions.
In Washington state, more than 622,000 adults older than 20 and 4,500 people younger than 20 have diabetes. The average yearly cost of diabetes care for an individual is $14,000.
Fortunately for the Satakes, their son is protected by the ACA through age 25.
“My fear now is what will happen when he goes to college,” Katie Satake said. “If he has a job that does provide health insurance, or it does and pre-existing protections were to disappear.”
“That’s a very scary proposition, regardless,” she said.
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