On Wednesday morning, President Trump tweeted out his support for the so-called Graham-Cassidy health care bill that would allow insurers to discriminate against people with preexisting conditions and could cause tens of millions to lose coverage.
In the hours before Trump posted that tweet, his account blocked a woman with stage 4 cancer who has spoken out about the dangers of Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare.
Following a restless night, Laura Packard, a Las Vegas-based self-employed consultant, found out she’d been blocked by the president.
“I didn’t sleep too well because of the cancer,” she told ThinkProgress by phone. “But I don’t know if he just woke up on the wrong side of the bed today or what.”
Packard, who has Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, has regularly been tweeting at Trump about health care and other topics at least since the election. The day before she was blocked, she put the president on blast for supporting a bill that would jeopardize the lives of people like her who rely on Obamacare exchanges for coverage.
As ThinkProgress detailed earlier this week, under Graham-Cassidy, a 40-year-old diagnosed with metastatic cancer “could expect to pay a $140,510 surcharge on their annual health premium, effectively making many families choose between being bankrupted by their insurance company or being bankrupted by their hospital bills.” Packard is 41.
“I cannot afford [a $141,000 premium] and I suspect most people cannot,” Packard said.
Asked about how being blocked by Trump makes her feel, Packard said, “I just wish that he would listen.”
“He said [during the campaign] he would come up with something that was great and was going to cover everybody, and [Republicans] keep coming up with bills that are the exact opposite,” she added. “He’s definitely not listening to me now.”
When Republican senators were trying to pass a previous Obamacare repeal/replace package earlier in the summer, Packard wrote an op-ed for U.S. News & World Report headlined, “Save Obamacare, Save My Life.”
“Getting rid of lifetime and/or annual limits? That means many of us will die when we hit those caps and can no longer afford treatment,” she wrote. “Getting rid of pre-existing condition protections? Many of us will die, because we won’t be insurable anymore. Allowing insurers to remove essential health benefits (such as chemotherapy, or hospitalization, or many of the drugs we need to stay alive) means many of us will die, because our insurance won’t cover our treatment anymore.”
The Graham-Cassidy bill would remove lifetime limits, gut protections for preexisting conditions, and allow insurers to charge more for services like the treatments Packard needs to stay alive.
In May, Packard starred in a viral video aimed at Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), who was ultimately strong-armed into voting for Obamacare repeal by President Trump.
“The good news is that my doctors believe I can be cured, I just need to keep my health insurance,” says Packard in the video, which has been retweeted more than 4,700 times.
In response to the video, Heller’s office released a statement that didn’t address any of Packard’s concerns.
“Laura’s story is heartbreaking,” the statement says. “Over the past several months, Senator Heller has been working for solutions that protect Nevada’s most vulnerable and help people like Laura, and he’ll continue to do so.”
Packard said she was disappointed by Heller’s response.
“I appreciate the sympathy, but what I need is affordable, comprehensive health insurance,” she said.
Heller is a cosponsor of the Graham-Cassidy bill. Republican senators who support the bill are using lies to try and sell it to the public.
While Trump blocks people like Packard who are his constituents and offer valid critiques of his policy positions, he regularly retweets racists, conspiracy theorists, and bot accounts.