Under Trumpcare, Americans abroad with pre-existing conditions may be forced to live in “exile” if the Republican health bill passes. Young families considering a return to the US would face decreased coverage for family planning and maternal/infant care. For those with loved ones in the US, cutting Medicaid funding will have an impact on our elderly family members as well as those with disabilities or mental health issues. We face very tough decisions, not only about ourselves but about our families back in the US.
There are lots of unknowns about the Senate healthcare bill. The bill is being written behind closed doors by a 13-member (all white male) working group led by Senator Mitch McConnell. Even Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price admitted on June 17th that he had not seen what the Republicans were working on. But what we do know is that the Republican-dominated Senate is pushing forward to get their health care bill passed by July 4th. The Senate plans on sending their bill to the Congressional Budget Office before making their text public and have been liaising with the CBO behind the scenes in order to speed up the scoring.
By contrast, the Affordable Care Act had months of public hearings, 160 hours of debate and discussions surrounding hundreds of amendments (170 of which were adopted).
It is critical that we demand that the senate discuss the bill in a democratic fashion - opening it up to discussion, debate and amendment. It is critical that we demand that no American's health and security be sacrificed at the altar of special interests. The pressure that McConnell is exercising on Republican Senators to get enough votes to pass this bill is immense. We must exert equal pressure by calling our Senators to let them know how the bill will impact us and to tell our stories.
Take a moment today to call your senator about the bill and tell them your story. If they are Democratic they will appreciate your support and if they are Republican they need to feel the pressure.
Below are a few personal stories from Americans abroad that provide our unique perspective on health care - both in the US and in the countries where we now live.
Pre-existing Conditions: what would happen to Americans like Laura if she had to move back to the U.S. under Trumpcare?
Laura (Virginia - Germany)
“I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus at age 7. For years, I was a drain on the medical insurance of my father's work, and eventually he was actually let go because the company didn't want their premiums to keep going up because of my expensive illness. I was in-and-out of hospitals for years until age 22, almost died of kidney failure once, and both hips had disintegrated (the left one collapsed) due to high doses of steroids meant to keep me alive.
I have had the greatest hospital experiences of my life here in Germany, and I am grateful for the level of care and after-care I have received. I am still in physical therapy two years after the second operation. My disease is controlled by a specialist every four months. I get all the care and medication I need. While a significant portion of my husband's paycheck every month goes towards our health insurance, we pay very little for my care outside of that and are very happy to pay our share into a public healthcare system that works very well here in Germany. “
Health Insurance Exiles: how many Americans are choosing to live outside of the country purely because of health insurance issues?
Roberta (Dee Dee) (Massachusetts - Mexico)
"I live outside of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Even though I paid into my social security and Medicare account my entire working life in the US, I am not eligible to use my Medicare here in Mexico. It would cost a lot less for the US to allow us to use Medicare in this country. The costs of returning and dealing with the very complicated healthcare system in the US (waiting months for an appointment with a doctor, trying to get services at a hospital, etc.) make it difficult.
I have chosen to remain in Mexico and pay for insurance to cover me. I will not return to the US for my coverage. Since I live close to Guadalajara, I feel fortunate to have healthcare options close. This is one reason why so many Americans have chosen to live here."
Aging Parents: how can we make sure our parents are being well-cared for when we live outside the US?
“Many of us still have family in the U.S. Caring for elderly parents is a great and growing concern. My mother had dementia and was taken care of in a specialised facility for over four years. Only because of Medicare and her military health insurance could we afford to have her cared for. There were still expenses, but they did not bankrupt us. I worry about other friends in similar situations, as the ACHA looks to reduce services to seniors, reduce quality and increase care costs. People in my situation could be forced to look at situations of moving back to the US to take care of an elderly parent (difficult with a full-time job or possibly no job) or uprooting their parents and moving them out of the country, both of which could be devastating.”
Keeping Healthy/Preventative Check-ups: Studies have shown that preventative healthcare is less a burden on the system than the emergency room visits or waiting until it is too late.
"The main point is that growing up in the US, I learned to avoid being sick as much as possible. I developed a certain aversion to hospitals and doctors in that it meant debt, and lots of it. Here, where healthcare is universal and not designed to empty your pockets, I have never felt healthier nor the least bit bothered by going to see my family doctor or specialists. "