“I tell my kids and my wife I love them every day,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Roll Call last year in an interview about losing his father more than 17 years ago to a rare form of cancer. “You realize that this job does not define your life by any shape or form, that at any time and any place it can hit you. It also makes me try to reflect on my own family’s health. It reflects on what you value, what you cherish.”
On Thursday, that kind of self-reflection led McCarthy to vote “yes” on the American Health Care Act, a catastrophic piece of legislation that allows states to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions and saddle cancer patients with an estimated $140,000 in additional premiums. For cancer patients, a lack of insurance can be a death sentence. McCarthy should know that. Clearly, it didn’t matter.
McCarthy wasn’t the only House Republican with a record of speaking out about their own experiences with cancer who also voted to gut protections for people facing the same diagnosis. Unfortunately for patients relying on the existing healthcare law for their survival, “hypocrisy” is a charge that tends to bounce off the shameless.
In the same Roll Call piece, Missouri Rep. Billy Long told a moving story about his daughter’s cancer diagnosis.“When you first get that news, especially with a child, it’s devastating,” he said at the time. “The first thing you think of is, ‘Why her? Why not me?’”
Last month, Long was a “no” vote on the American Health Care Act. The reason? He said he was concerned that the bill’s reversal of protections preexisting conditions would hurt people like his daughter.
This week, after an amendment to add $8 billion in funding for high risk pools for people with preexisting conditions was added to the bill, Long switched to “yes.”
“They need to be covered, period,” he said outside the White House on Wednesday, according to a report from The Springfield News Leader. The thing is, they still won’t be: Multiple estimates have found that the additional funding remains wildly insufficient to meet the demand, covering just a few hundred thousand people out of the millions who may need it.
The House Cancer Caucus—one of four groups dedicated to the disease in the chamber—is full of Republicans who voted to roll back protections for cancer patients and strip millions of people of their insurance.
In 2015, Texas Rep. John Carter, a “yes” vote on AHCA, issued a statement thanking his constituents for their support during a one-week absence from Congress while he underwent surgery for prostate cancer:
Thanks to my annual checkup, the doctors were able to detect the very early stages of prostate cancer. I underwent a successful surgery and follow-up treatment to remove the cancer and am now back to work.
Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, also a member of the Cancer Caucus and a “yes” on AHCA, cried last year while talking about his own mother’s cancer diagnosis.
“My mother, she passed away when I was 28 years old,” a visibly emotional Chaffetz said during a hearing on funding for Planned Parenthood. “She fought cancer for more than 10 years. She had breast cancer and I miss her.” The health care bill he just voted for means a woman with an identical diagnosis can expect to pay an additional $28,000 to secure coverage.
In March, New York Rep. Peter King, another “yes,” received an award from an organization called ZERO: The End of Prostate Cancer for being a “champion” on the issue. “In accepting the award, I emphasized that lives are at stake,” King wrote on Facebook that month.
The same was true today.