In 2010, I was thirty-one years old, running twenty-five miles per week, doing yoga twice a week, and eating a vegetarian diet. My blood pressure was 110/60, I weighed 135 pounds, I took multivitamins and omega-3s, I flossed daily. I was so healthy I was smug about it—I’d never even broken a bone. I was invincible.
One day, I tripped over nothing when I was running. It kept happening but I kept running. “Clumsy,” I thought, but I was an athlete. I ran through it. And then I fell in the most epic way: head-first down a hill, in front of crowds of people, at the end of an annual 5K race—bruised face, skinned knees and hands, twisted ankle. I couldn't figure out why, except that my knee buckled. Weird.
A year of physical therapy later, I defended my dissertation and lost my grad-school health insurance, but it was okay—I was in my early thirties and healthy. Sure, I was doing less running (and less falling), but I was still eating healthy, still doing yoga, still a size four and (as my doctor put it) “a cardiologist's dream.” I got married and got on my husband’s insurance, at which point my knee just gave up. Since I now had insurance, I went back to my doctor and told her that the therapy hadn't really helped and I was still falling down and WTF?
So she sent me to a neurologist who, after three MRIs and a major workup, diagnosed me with multiple sclerosis in November 2013. He put me on meds that had a list price of $5,500 per month and which were (thankfully) covered by my insurance, as were those three MRIs, the neuro-ophthamologist, the second opinion at Brigham & Women's Hospital.
I am now officially living with a chronic disease, one that will only get worse, one that will only get more expensive the longer I live. And I am STILL one of the healthiest people I know: still eating (mostly) vegetarian, still working out every day, still doing yoga, still a cardiologist's dream, still a size four.
But I'm also now the one Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) tsk-tsked about on CNN, saying that insurance companies should jack rates up on people like me, so we don’t burden healthy people who “lead good lives.” (This, from a man whose own constituents are among the least healthy in the U.S.: 67% of Alabamans are obese; a quarter of the state’s population smokes.) Brooks can say this because, of course, he and every other Congressperson will begin to receive free government healthcare (FEHBP) once the ACA is repealed, healthcare that our tax dollars will pay for. Brooks will never have to pay his own premiums, no matter how badly he lives.
To which I say, Fuck you, Congressman Brooks. Fuck you, Paul Ryan and the Freedom Caucus. Fuck your cruelty and your hypocrisy and your smug Stone Age superiority. Fuck you to every Congressperson who voted for the AHCA without reading it, without any idea of what it will cost us, without even pretending to know what’s in it.
I can’t wait until 2018, when you lose your jobs and have to struggle to find coverage for your rancid hearts and toxic livers and erectile dysfunction and aging spouses. You think you’re invincible. Someday soon you will learn—there’s no such thing.
Emily Wojcik is Managing Editor of the Massachusetts Review