Can I afford it?

For too many families, the scariest thing about cancer is the cost.  When they get the diagnosis, their first thought isn’t, “Will I make it?” It’s “can I afford it?” And that’s true for people with and without insurance.

As many of you know, when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer in my late 20s, I didn’t have insurance, even though I was working two-full time jobs. And, in the end, the bills bankrupted me.

But for another resident of Wisconsin’s First District, insurance wasn’t the issue – a pay-for-play Congressman was.

I first saw Jackie’s story on the news, and it is truly heartbreaking. A retired social studies teacher, she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and the drugs she needs to stay a live cost $19,000 a year in out of pocket costs. She knew that wasn’t right, so she went to visit her Congressman, Paul Ryan, in D.C. to ask him to co-sponsor the CREATES Act, a bipartisan bill that would help lower drug costs by stopping brand name pharmaceutical companies from blocking generic competitors.

Ryan’s staff met with her. Then less than a month later, in March of this year, Paul Ryan accepted a $34,000 donation from the CEO of the drug company who is threatening Jackie’s health and financial security. The same CEO who has increased the cost of Jackie’s drug by 88 percent over the past seven years for no apparent reason.  The same CEO who was fined $280 million last Fall for making fraudulent claims about the efficacy of some of his drugs.

So, now Jackie understands better why Ryan isn’t a co-sponsor of the CREATES Act, even though seven other Republicans are, including one from Wisconsin. A CEO paid for Ryan’s vote.

I’m not accepting any contributions from corporate PACs because I don’t want people to have any doubt about who I work for. I will never put the interests of a pharmaceutical CEO over the health and financial security of a woman fighting to survive cancer in Muskego.

As someone who nearly lost the chance to have a child in my fight against cancer, I will always fight to lower drug costs and to improve access to affordable healthcare for Southeastern Wisconsin residents. I believe strongly we need to pass Medicare for All, and additional legislation like the CREATES Act to drive down drug costs. I won’t stop fighting until it’s done.