What It’s Like to Watch the Senate Debate Whether Your Life is as Valuable as a Tax Cut for Trump

Ian Millhiser

Ian Millhiser Senior Constitutional Policy Analyst, Think Progress

Every other Saturday morning, I inject $2,269.61 worth of pharmaceuticals into my leg. If I don’t do so, my immune system will slowly eat holes in my small intestine. Eventually, it will start leaking digestive fluid into my abdominal cavity until I literally devour myself from the inside.

I’ve experienced an intestinal rupture before, and can assure you that the pain is unimaginable. Unless you’ve laid on a gurney screaming for morphine before, there’s nothing I can say to convey what it is like. I wouldn’t wish that pain on history’s worst tyrants. I wouldn’t wish it on Mitch McConnell.

I tell this story because the Senate is poised to vote on a bill that will plunge thousands of people similar to me into economic ruin. Many of us will not survive if Trumpcare becomes law. Unable to even afford opiates to ease the pain, some of us could die excruciating deaths.


See that? That’s almost $2,300 worth of medicine. Or two weeks of life for me. CREDIT: Photo courtesy of the author.

The drug that keeps me from this fate is called Humira, and it is one of capitalism’s great miracles. AbbVie, the company that makes Humira, sold $12.5 billion worth of the stuff in 2014, more than any other drug in on the market today. A box of two 40 mg Humira shots costs $4,539.21.

To me, it’s worth every penny. So long as I can afford it, it keeps my medical condition almost entirely at bay. I eat what I want, probably drink too much, and travel freely. I have a black belt in Shaolin kempo and an absolutely enormous German shepherd who loves to wrestle with me. If you met me, you’d have no idea that I have a potentially life-threatening condition.

Fortunately, I don’t have to pay anywhere near $4,500 for my Humira shots, as I’ve got great insurance that covers nearly all of that cost. So long as I keep this job, my insurer will pay to keep me alive.

And even if my bosses do decide that they are sick of seeing my face around the office, I’m probably going to be fine. I’ve got a law license, and I’ve got enough savings that I’ll be able to keep my health insurance for a little while thanks to a federal law known as COBRA.


That’s me looking haggard and gross after a workout I’m capable of doing because I have health insurance. CREDIT: Photo courtesy of the author.

But I can’t help be aware that not everyone is quite as fortunate.

A few years before Obamacare became law, a Harvard study determined that nearly 45,000 American adults died in a single year because they did not have health insurance. Many of them had conditions much like mine, which require expensive, lifelong treatments. I will probably live even if the Affordable Care Act is repealed and replaced with something like the previous versions of Trumpcare. Tens of thousands of others will not be as fortunate.

And, somewhat selfishly, I can’t ignore the very clear message the Senate will send to me if it approves Trumpcare. The bottom line is that, if push came to shove and my life depended on my ability to secure a health plan on an Obamacare exchange, the president and the lawmakers who lead both houses of Congress would rather spend that money on a tax cut for Donald Trump.

There is something quite clarifying when your government tells you that it no longer cares if you live or die. And make no mistake, that’s what Mitch McConnell wants the Senate to tell thousands of Americans today.

Ian Millhiser is a Senior Constitutional Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the Editor of ThinkProgress Justice. He received a B.A. in Philosophy from Kenyon College and a J.D., magna cum laude, from Duke University. Ian clerked for Judge Eric L. Clay of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and has worked as an attorney with the National Senior Citizens Law Center’s Federal Rights Project, as Assistant Director for Communications with the American Constitution Society, and as a Teach For America teacher in the Mississippi Delta. His writings have appeared in a diversity of legal and mainstream publications, including the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, U.S. News and World Report, Slate, the Guardian, the American Prospect, the Yale Law and Policy Review and the Duke Law Journal; and he has been a guest on CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English, Fox News and many radio shows.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

An Invitation to Sunny Miami. What Could Be Bad?

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

If a billionaire “invites” you somewhere, you’d better go. Or be prepared to suffer the consequences. This past May, hedge fund kingpin Carl Icahn announced in a letter to his New York-based staff of about 50 that he would be moving his business operations to Florida. But the 83-year-old Icahn assured his staffers they had no reason to worry: “My employees have always been very important to the company, so I’d like to invite you all to join me in Miami.” Those who go south, his letter added, would get a $50,000 relocation benefit “once you have established your permanent residence in Florida.” Those who stay put, the letter continued, can file for state unemployment benefits, a $450 weekly maximum that “you can receive for a total of 26 weeks.” What about severance from Icahn Enterprises? The New York Post reported last week that the two dozen employees who have chosen not to uproot their families and follow Icahn to Florida “will be let go without any severance” when the billionaire shutters his New York offices this coming March. Bloomberg currently puts Carl Icahn’s net worth at $20.5 billion.


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