AHCA Stories: “Your parent, child, sibling, or neighbor could be impacted”

Torchlight continues to speak with individuals whose life would be deeply impacted by the American Health Care Act becoming law. The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Q: Let’s establish some background for the moment. What’s your name, where are you from, what do you do? Tell us about yourself and your family.

Brad Williams: I’m Brad Williams, I live in a small town in Vermont called Bradford. No relation. With me are my wife Cassie, and my daughter Jaina, as well as three cats and a dog. My wife and I met at GameStop years ago. I had hired her as a sales associate, but we got close and she left the company so we could pursue a relationship.

We both now work for a major electronics retailer, she as an in-store supervisor, and me as an in-home install/repair guy. I mostly repair computers (remove malware, replace parts, etc) and build networks for larger homes, but I also do a bit of home theater as well.

After my wife and I were married for a few years, we discovered that I was unable to have children. It took a while, but after four attempts with donor sperm, we welcomed our little Jaina. She just turned two last month, and she’s been through some stuff since birth. But she’s beautiful, tough, and a heck of a lot of fun.

Q: Thank you. You have concerns about how the recently passed American Health Care Act could affect your family. Could you tell me a bit about this?

Brad Williams: Well, I mentioned she’s been through some stuff. [Jaina] was born with Transposition of the Great Arteries, so her pulmonary and arterial lines were reversed. Basically, oxygenated blood was going back to her lungs instead of filtering out to her body. We didn’t find out about this until about twelve hours after her birth, and didn’t get to hold her much at all. She was driven that Wednesday night from Dartmouth Hitchcock to Boston Children’s, and underwent open heart surgery Friday. The issue was corrected completely, but she needs yearly check-ins with a cardiologist. I’m sure you can guess that TGA is a pre-existing condition. So, right now my wife and I have decent enough insurance through my employer. But with the ACA protections for pre-existing conditions being threatened, things become very scary. What if I lose my job and we have a gap in benefits? Or what if something happens to me? Whatever happens to me happens, I’ll live, but they’re coming after my daughter.

Question: Are there any common complications that can arise after TGA has been corrected?

Brad Williams: So, we’re not sure, which is part of why she sees a cardiologist once a year. The procedure has only been done since the mid-80s, and since it’s performed right around birth, issues later in life aren’t known for sure yet. Right now, the main risks they look out for are coronary artery problems and the possibility of leaking valves.

Question: So it’s effectively an unknown value that could lead to gaps in coverage. If the AHCA were made law would you feel as though you could leave or switch jobs?

Brad Williams: No way. Thankfully I like my job, but when you get a new job, there’s that period that you can’t get coverage for, usually around 90 days. That’s 90 days for something to go wrong, and not a risk I’d be willing to take for her. And, while I enjoy my job and wouldn’t leave it voluntarily, the chance of me losing my job due to factors I can’t control is not exactly zero, and we couldn’t afford COBRA. That’s what worries me most, having a short period without coverage and giving the insurance an excuse to stop covering her.

Question: Additionally, prior to the ACA there could be a longer wait period for those with pre-existing conditions. Do you recall what your insurance situation was like pre-ACA?

Brad Williams: I’ve had insurance most of my life. When I changed companies in 2007 I was without for the typical 90 days, and that happened again when I changed to this job almost two years ago. Thankfully nothing major happened to any of us during that period.

Question: Moving on to the future, how would you like the government to approach healthcare?

Brad Williams: Honestly? I know the healthcare system is a mess. It’s not easy. And I’m one of the fortunate ones that has had OK-to-great insurance his whole life. But I really think we need to get with the rest of the modern world and move to single payer of some form. Too many people are left without any care, while many others like my daughter are at risk of being denied care should the AHCA go through. All for something that isn’t their fault.

Even if it costs me more out of each paycheck, having that safety net for not only my family, but other people in the community, is important for the long term well being of the country.

Question: Who is your representative in the House?

Brad Williams: Peter Welch. He represents all of Vermont, and voted against the AHCA.

Question: How politically active have you been? Have you tried contacting Welch?

Brad Williams: Not as active as I should be, if I’m honest. We donated to the DNC last year before the election, and we’ve written emails and letters in the past about other things (Title II, for instance). It’s been on my mind, though, and even though Welch voted against the AHCA, and Sanders and Leahy most certainly will if it reaches the Senate, I should reach out.

Question: And do you think your Representative will be amenable to your concerns?

Brad Williams: He’s supposed to be representing the people of Vermont, so I certainly hope so. Only one way to find out, though.

Question: Anything you want to say or tell people before we wrap this up?

Brad Williams: I just want people to realize how dangerous this is. Even if you yourself are not affected right now, you may be later. Your parent, child, sibling, or neighbor could be impacted. I’d hate to end this interview with “please think of the children,” but it’s not far from the truth in this case.

Question: Thank you for speaking with me Brad, it has been a big help.

Brad Williams: You’re welcome, and thank you for inviting me.