Over the last seven months, I have witnessed firsthand the importance of electing someone to Congress who will fight not only for affordable healthcare and coverage for pre-existing conditions, but for the dignity of all humans, no matter their condition.
I live in Harrisburg, and spend my days as a home care worker looking after my brother Craig, who has autism and Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic condition characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness that has left him unable to walk and weighing only 70 pounds. His condition requires 24-hour care from me and a rotating group of six other caregivers. Getting involved with my union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), has been my one saving grace, giving me the opportunity to help people in a similar situation.
Recently, Craig’s insurance company cut more than 40 hours a week of care, meaning that despite being saddled with my medical bills and expenses from my own pre-existing conditions, I have no choice but to care for Craig for free. Every day I wake up in fear, feeling helpless in the hands of our insurance companies.
I have also been denied coverage for life insurance and other benefits due to my pre-existing conditions, and as the Supreme Court case on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) looms on November 10th, I constantly worry about how rollbacks to the law would make it impossible for me to care for Craig, myself, and my two children who both have special needs.
And I am not alone. The pandemic has left the more than 100,000 home care workers in Pennsylvania without the support to do our jobs safely, and our elected officials have failed to provide home care agencies the equipment or funds they so desperately need. So many of us didn’t choose this profession, but have had no choice but to put our lives on hold to care for loved ones and stay in quarantine until there is a working vaccine.
I grew up surrounded by politics and was dismayed seeing partisan infighting and opportunistic politicians. However, as I get older and witness how personal issues like healthcare and human rights are, I gain renewed hope from leaders that have deep empathy for others and a fierce desire to work together to create meaningful change.
One of those leaders is Eugene DePasquale, the Democratic candidate challenging incumbent Scott Perry to represent Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District. He understands the challenges families like mine and yours face because he’s lived them. His youngest brother was diagnosed with (and later passed away from) muscular dystrophy and his family struggled after being denied coverage and medical bills piled up. That’s why he supports a public option that builds on and expands the ACA, as well as automatic enrollment into Medicaid for people who cannot afford insurance.
By contrast, his opponent Perry voted to gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions by voting twelve times to repeal the ACA and has offered no health care plan to replace it. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare even said that he’s voted for plans that would leave the disabled “hostage to the whims of private insurance companies.”
For my family and so many others, this election is a matter of life or death. We have a choice between Eugene DePasquale, who has made affordable healthcare and protections for pre-existing conditions a pillar of his campaign, or Scott Perry, who has voted to rip away people’s healthcare without hesitation. The choice could not be clearer. That’s why I urge you to join me in voting for Eugene, who will fight for us, no matter our condition.
Hillary is a single mother and SEIU member living in Harrisburg, PA, where she cares for her brother Craig, who has autism and muscular dystrophy.