Transcript: Felicia Willems’ remarks on the Affordable Care Act
Remarks by Felicia Willems on the Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2012:
“My name is Felicia Willems, and my son, Ethan, was up here with me a moment ago. I want to especially thank Leader Pelosi for giving me the opportunity to come out today and share our story with you, and let you know how the Affordable Care Act has helped our family.
“In 2006, my husband and I were very excited parents to be. He was a law student, and I was a manager for a major department store. We were newlyweds. We had just bought our first home. And we felt like we were prepared to start a family. I was going to continue working while my husband continued law school, but all our plans changed when our son was born.
“Ethan was born with a vascular tumor that required chemotherapy. At just six-weeks-old, he was put on oral steroids and Tylenol with codeine. Because he was so small, the doctors had to do surgery to insert an external port into his heart to administer the chemo. The port had to be monitored constantly to avoid infection. Ethan had three surgeries and multiple rounds of chemotherapy before he was one-year-old.
“Ethan needed around the clock care. And I had no other choice other than to quit my job so I could provide that care. And when I quit my job, we lost our health insurance. We were incredibly fortunate that Ethan qualified for Medicaid. Without it, he most likely would have lost his leg and possibly his life.
“Not having employer based health insurance proved to be quite expensive. We had no income, and now we had to care for a sick child while balancing a mortgage, monthly bills, and expensive insurance premiums because of my own personal health issues.
“Thankfully, Ethan’s tumor began to heal around the time he turned one, and we spent the next year just catching him up to a normal level of development. My husband and I managed to hold our heads above water financially for two-and-a-half-years. We lived frugally, stretching the savings we had as much as possible, and taking out student loans. But in the end, we still had to sell our home and move in with family.
“Ethan’s third year was fantastic. He graduated from all of his therapies and started preschool. He was not just walking now, but running, jumping, and hopping with no pain whatsoever. In his fourth year, the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. Even though Ethan had overcome his illness and had proven more than most people will ever have to that he is strong and will fight to be healthy, without the Affordable Care Act, he would face a lifetime of struggling to get health insurance because of his medical history. The Affordable Care Act prohibits insurers from limiting or denying benefits or coverage for children because of a pre-existing condition.
“In October of 2010, Ethan’s oncologist gave him a clean bill of health for the first time in his entire life. And now that insurance companies can no longer consider his pre-existing condition a factor, we have been able to officially close that chapter in our lives.
“Our family’s health care struggle may be over, but there are millions of other families out there who are dealing with serious medical problems and still need help. We cannot pull the rug out from under these families who are finally beginning to feel some relief as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Moms Rising members know how important it is for families to get and maintain affordable health insurance. That is why we worked so hard to get the law passed and why we will keep fighting to keep it from being repealed or reversed.
“We worked hard to move our country forward on health care, and we are not going back to the days when health insurers could deny coverage to our children because of a preexisting condition, or drop us when we get sick. We will keep fighting to make quality, affordable health care a reality, to ensure that we are not just a country who pays lip service to family values, but who truly values families and understands the struggles we face. Thank you.”
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