I was 26 years old when I was diagnosed with cancer. When the doctor said the words “chronic myeloid leukemia” and explained that I had a rare form of blood cancer, I couldn’t think or speak. My head was spinning; it felt like my world was crashing in on me.
I was 26 years old. Between school and work, I was so busy that I barely fit in my routine checkup.
I was 26 years old. I thought I was healthy.
I was 26 years old. I didn’t think cancer happened to people like me.
But it did.
The day the doctor told me that I had CML, I learned that treatment was available. But when they told me it would cost $140,000 every year for the rest of my life, my first thought was I’m going to die.
There was no way I could afford that. I started thinking about ways to scrounge together the funds. Maybe I could stop paying my car insurance? Or cancel my cell phone? Maybe I could move? I knew, though, that even then the numbers wouldn’t add up.
But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, my life was saved. I was able to get the treatment I needed without financial ruin, and I’m living my life again. For the first time in a year, I’m able to imagine a future with a career, a husband, a family.
That’s why we can’t let Senate Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act. Under their recently failed plan, health care gets worse for everyone; Trumpcare weakens protections, cuts coverage, and raises costs for millions just to provide tax cuts to the ultra-wealthy, while 22 million Americans could lose coverage. And for those who get to keep it, premiums will go up by 20 percent next year alone. A new, even crueler, proposal pushed by President Trump would repeal Obamacare with no replacement in sight; this would lead to premiums rising 25 percent and 32 million people losing their insurance in less than a decade.
I am one of those 32 million people.
The Affordable Care Act ensures that I can’t be denied coverage because of my cancer. Without the law, I could lose access to the treatment that’s keeping me alive. And it’s not just me: Rolling back protections for people with preexisting medical conditions would impact millions of Americans living with medical issues from asthma to HIV.
As a gay man, I know the repeal of the Affordable Care Act will hurt me and countless other LGBT Americans. Why? Because the law gave our community greater access and opportunity than ever before. It protects us from discrimination in health insurance and health care. And it extended a lifeline to 560,000 LGBT Americans who now have Medicaid coverage.
Now that we’ve seen Trumpcare, it’s clear that it hurts all Americans, but especially LGBT people.
I’m one of millions of Americans who have access to health care today because of the Affordable Care Act. It saved my life. Now we have to save it.
STEVEN MARTIN lives in Los Angeles and is 28 years old. He is sharing his story about fighting leukemia to advocate for health care for all.