A congressman and an Olympic swimmer are among 130 million Americans who would face healthcare discrimination if Trump and McConnell get their way

By Rep. Ted Lieu and Gary Hall Jr.

Gary Hall Jr. was Lieu’s guest for last month’s State of the Union Address

Lieu represents coastal communities from Malibu to Rancho Palos Verdes in the House of Representatives. Hall is a
retired Olympic swimmer who won five gold medals for the United States.

What do a gold medal Olympic swimmer turned healthcare advocate and a former computer science major turned congressman have in common?

Like millions of Americans, we’re both living with a pre-existing condition.

Both our pre-existing conditions might surprise you. One of us managed to become the fastest swimmer in the world and bring home Olympic gold for Team USA while managing type 1 diabetes, and the other previously served on active duty and is serving in in the United States Congress despite having stent surgery due to a partial artery blockage.

We’re among the 130 million Americans who have a pre-existing health condition. And, according to U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in the next eight years between 15% and 30% of healthy people will likely develop a pre-existing condition. We also both call California’s 33rd Congressional District home, where more than 53% of our neighbors have a pre-existing condition.

Living with an ongoing health condition makes life a bit different and a bit more challenging. We’re both on medications and must declare these conditions to healthcare providers. And, before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted, life with a pre-existing condition meant insurance companies could discriminate against anyone with health challenges — even if you were an Olympian or an elected official.

We believe that ensuring Americans have healthcare is essential. The decision to seek care and take life-saving measures shouldn’t come down to cost. This view is reflected in the work the House of Representatives has been doing to save protections for individuals and families all over the country. In the last year, the House has passed more than 10 bills to make healthcare more affordable and accessible to all Americans.

These efforts have broad support: 75% of Americans want to protect pre-existing conditions coverage. That’s because before we had these protections in the ACA, insurance companies could deny people with pre-existing conditions health insurance, or could charge them higher premiums based on their health history. Everything from heart conditions to blood disorders, exercise-induced asthma and sleep apnea could have been grounds for coverage denial.

These measures are popular because Americans want affordable, quality healthcare. Unfortunately, that fact hasn’t stopped Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from standing in the way. Senate inaction puts Americans’ health and finances in jeopardy. The House bill to lower the cost of prescription drug prices would help the millions of Americans saddled by medical debt and the 28 percent of Americans who stopped taking their medication because of the cost, according to AARP. There’s a moral imperative to do more to improve our healthcare system and Democrats are leading the charge.

And then there’s Donald Trump. We were both in attendance at the State of the Union when the president said, “I’ve also made an ironclad pledge to American families. We will also protect patients with pre-existing conditions.” Despite saying this during his national address, Trump has directed his administration to join a lawsuit to strike down the ACA without offering an alternative to protect those with pre-existing conditions.

Like a blocked artery, obstructing measures to make our healthcare system work better for patients and their families can have dire consequences. Everyone deserves quality, affordable healthcare. It is our hope that the president will abandon his efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act and instead act to support the millions of Americans who want a better, healthier future for themselves and their families.