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

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work