Op-Ed: The Fate of Cancer Survivors and COVID Patients on the Ballot

I was diagnosed with breast cancer as a healthy 38-year-old mother of two. Within just a few hours of finding the lump, my world was turned upside down. While I was shocked, similar diagnoses are tragically common. Today, as we mark the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there are […]

I was diagnosed with breast cancer as a healthy 38-year-old mother of two. Within just a few hours of finding the lump, my world was turned upside down. While I was shocked, similar diagnoses are tragically common. Today, as we mark the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there are over 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

The shock of an unplanned cancer diagnosis or terminal illness is something that far too many of our neighbors across the country experience. And while combating the illness should be the hard part, too often the medical bills and discrimination from insurance companies make navigating a diagnosis even more fraught. Affording care has become the greatest barrier to health-care access and treatment. This is unacceptable! I know these challenges firsthand. After my diagnosis, I lost my job, I lost my health insurance and my marriage crumbled under the strain of everything. I was left — with a terminal illness and wondering if I was going to live or die — to figure out how to take care of my two little girls, trying to determine how I could pay for my treatment while putting food on the table and a roof over my children’s heads. No parent should be forced to confront this daunting challenge.

The Affordable Care Act changed that. The ACA provides security, financial stability and the coverage so many of our neighbors need during their time of greatest uncertainty and challenge. The ACA provides this coverage and peace of mind for countless Coloradans and millions of Americans. Make no mistake: This November, the fate of the ACA and the health care of tens of millions of Americans are on the ballot.

As our nation grapples with a once-in-a-century pandemic, health-care accessibility hangs in the balance. The Trump administration is currently in court trying to rip apart the Affordable Care Act and tear away protections for pre-existing conditions, even as thousands of our neighbors daily test positive for coronavirus and are potentially added to this list of individuals whose health care could be threatened by the California v. Texas case being heard in the U.S. Supreme Court.

There’s no gray area as we vote. The option is between an incumbent president who is actively working to undermine and sabotage health care for tens of millions, and Joe Biden, who has advocated and fought for health-care affordability, accessibility and equity throughout his whole career.

Joe Biden knows the pain of a terminal illness diagnosis personally. His son Beau Biden was diagnosed with stage-4 brain cancer and passed away at the age of 46, only eight years older than I was when I received my first diagnosis. Throughout his almost fifty years of public service, Joe Biden has fought for individuals like me faced with the most difficult health-care outcomes while concurrently being discriminated against by a system that does not work in our best interest.

As Vice President, Biden helped implement the Affordable Care Act, ensuring a cancer diagnosis could not be cause for losing health care. The Affordable Care Act allowed more than 20 million uninsured Americans to gain health-care coverage, and offered protections for nearly 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. Joe Biden led the Cancer Moonshot initiative to accelerate cancer research and preventive therapies. He is the health-care leader that our country needs!

Health-care policy and systems are complex issues; however, accessible and affordable health care is a real and pressing concern for our neighbors. We must consider the millions of Americans whose lives and livelihoods are tangibly impacted by these policy decisions in the White House as we go to the polls and drop off our ballots. For many, the choice we make will be the difference between bills paid and spending time with their loved ones, or having the rug pulled out from underneath them during the most challenging moments in their lives.

When I first ran for office, I committed to outworking my opponent. I knocked on doors from nine in the morning to nine at night. I walked in snowstorms and in 100-degree weather. With so much at stake this election, we must do the same in a safe way: by making calls. It falls on all of us to ensure that every vote is cast in Colorado and every voice is heard.

It is through grit and dedication that we will win on November 3, ensuring that the hard-fought victories we’ve won to expand health care for Americans who need it most are not torn away, and that our health care is protected over the next four years.

Dianne Primavera is the Lieutenant Governor of Colorado. She is a four-time cancer survivor.

Westword frequently publishes op-eds and essays on matters of interest to the Denver community. Have one you’d like to submit? Send it to [email protected], where you can also respond to this piece.

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