As a nurse, I work in the trenches. Here's an example of what that means: I know a woman who gave up her medicine so she could use that money instead to pay for her husband's cancer treatment. Then, she had a stroke and the couple lost their healthcare, and now she's in a county-run assisted living home and he's without his job.
I don't like those stories. I want everyone to be well.
That's why I think it's very important that Congress doesn't make any cuts to Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security.
While the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, is a great start, there's still not enough healthcare to go around. From my 77-year-old father to my 23-year-old daughter to the rehabilitating patients under my care, they all rely on vital health programs like Medicare and Medicaid -- and, now, new ACA programs.
The budget debate isn't just facts and figures -- it's about peoples' lives. My dad would struggle if Medicare became a voucher system. My daughter is 23 and just starting out in life. I don't know what she'd do if she wasn't covered under my plan thanks to ACA. She'd probably be uninsured.
Everyone would feel the cuts. Take the hospital where I currently work, for example. Cuts to critical programs would lead to cuts at the hospital -- not only a primary source of care for thousands of people but also one of the largest employers in Blair County.
It hasn't been an easy road for a lot of people here in Pennsylvania -- we've already lost manufacturing and railroad jobs. If the hospital started cutbacks, it would be a cycle of people losing their jobs, their healthcare, and their housing. No one would benefit.
So that's why I'm advocating against cuts to vital services. I've been able to look at these issues from both sides. People are sicker when they come to us if they wait longer for care. We need to make the system work better -- and that means getting our priorities straight.
People need healthcare: the rich don't need more tax breaks.
Members of Congress need to know that the working people of this country are their constituents. We elected them and they need to listen to us. We may not have the dollars to influence them, but that doesn't make our lives or our stories any less valuable.
So let's stand together, for everybody's health. Our lives depend on it.
The author, Starr Romano, is a member of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.