Former Congresswoman Donna Edwards Shares Her Own Health Care Story In A Powerful Letter To Republicans

"Don’t make my insurance unaffordable."

Donna Edwards, a former Democratic House representative from Maryland and current senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, has revealed something personal about herself in a powerful new letter opposing the GOP's bills to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

On Friday, the Washington Post published a piece by Edwards titled, "To my colleagues in Congress: I have MS. Don't make my insurance unaffordable." In it, Edwards shares her experience being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2016, and explains how recently proposed health care plans could adversely affect her and others like her across the country.

"I struggled over whether to write, but following the House passage of the American Health Care Act, and now the work that's going on in the Senate, I knew I must," Edwards begins her letter.

She goes on to recount her journey to discovering she has MS, explaining that she has "mostly been active and healthy" all her life, riding her bike, running 5K and 10K races, and playing on the congressional women's softball and football teams. "I thought I was in great health. I was not."

Following her loss in the Maryland Senate primary in April 2016, Edwards sprained her ankle in a bike accident, which "prompted some additional delving into my symptoms." On June 22, 2016, during the House sit-in for gun control legislation, an attending physician informed her that she had multiple sclerosis, which affects more than 400,000 Americans.

Edwards writes that, as a member of Congress, she had "great health-care coverage, which enabled me to take care of my medical needs without worrying." However, following her retirement from the House, where she had served since 2008, she is concerned about her future.

In the letter, Edwards explains that her medication costs $73,000 a year, and her MRI scans are $7,000 each. "I am not employed, and I pay $800 a month for my COBRA coverage, which ends in June 2018. I'm not sure what I'll do then."

Edwards writes that she did not have health insurance when she was younger, and nearly lost her home after a trip to the emergency room.

"One reason I ran for Congress was to help make sure no one would have to go through that, and I was proud to be one of the presiding officers when the Affordable Care Act passed," Edwards writes in the Washington Post. "I did not think the law was perfect; I believed it was a good start. I never thought I could have to go back to a time when I would not have health-care coverage."

Earlier this year, Edwards traveled in an RV to 27 different states speaking to people about their own health care stories — many of them Republicans. "And this story, my diagnosis of MS, is not about me; it's about them — millions of Americans who are trusting you to help, not harm."

If the GOP succeeds in repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, the legislation could remove protections for individuals with preexisting conditions — including Edwards. She hopes her story will highlight the true nature of these conditions, and the importance of providing others like her with affordable coverage.

"I pray that as you finish doing whatever it is that you are doing with health care, you remember that I was one of your colleagues, that I worked hard and that I don't have a preexisting condition because I was a bad person who led an unhealthy life," Edwards writes at the close of her letter. "I have a preexisting condition simply because I do; and I, like millions of other Americans in the same situation, deserve quality, affordable health care."

The American Health Care Act, which passed the House in May, and the Senate's proposed health care bill, which has yet to see a vote, are both estimated to cause millions of Americans to lose health coverage over the next decade. Edwards is just one of many citizens and members of Congress who have been outspoken against the GOP bills, staging protests and speaking out on social media.

(H/T: Huffington Post)

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