Before my husband became ill in June, we did not always wear masks. We were worried about our 12-year-old daughter, who suffers from an immune disorder that requires me to teach her at home because we knew she was at high risk. At the same time, however, we thought that the risk of COVID-19 in rural South Carolina was low, and we trusted that our nation’s leaders would ensure our safety.
My husband, 48 years old, voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, and we both voted for Senator Lindsey Graham in the past. Never did I expect these two men, along with Graham’s Republican colleagues in the Senate, to push through a Supreme Court judge who will most likely be responsible for taking our health care away from us when we need it most.
In a way, we are the lucky ones. More than 230,000 Americans have lost their lives because of COVID-19. But our lives will be changed forever by COVID-19. My husband spent 81 days in the hospital. During that time, he caught pneumonia, collapsed a lung, and was put on a ventilator four times, leaving scars on his windpipe, making it difficult for him to speak now that he is home. But his difficulty speaking is only the beginning of his long-term health problems. He also suffers from severe memory fog and is still getting oxygen. He was the sole breadwinner in our family and I have no idea if he will ever be able to work again.
Since July, my family of three has been living on a short-term disability and earning as much as possible from the $300 we receive each week. But that expires in December, and we don’t know what will happen next. My daughter has to be taught at home because her immune system is not strong enough for school. My husband has to be at home because of long-term health problems after his fight with COVID-19. So I have to stay at home to take care of them so that nobody can go to work anymore.
With Republicans in the Senate refusing to fund support for the survivors of COVID-19 and, worse yet, voting for a new Supreme Court Justice who has publicly opposed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we feel that the legislators we have supported do not support us at all.
And while I hope things will get better, I fear they won’t. Before the pandemic, Republicans in the Senate tried to overturn the ACA with a bill. That attempt failed, and now they are making a final spurt through the courts. The Supreme Court will deal with the arguments on the ACA agreement on November 10. With Barrett before the court, the outcome of this hearing is almost certainly the denial of insurance coverage or higher premiums with limited benefits for families like mine.
The threat to take health care away from Americans when they need it most is the height of cruelty. More than 9 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19 and are now living with what is probably considered a pre-existing condition. The callousness of Trump and his allies, who have done so little to stop the spread of the virus and refuse to guarantee survivors access to the medical care we need, is simply staggering.
No one should have to live in fear of being ruined by medical bills, especially in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis. We deserve to be led by people with empathy.
The Trump and Senate Republicans abandoned us on COVID-19, and now they have pushed through a Supreme Court nominee that could destroy our health care. If they do not want to put the safety of our families first, they deserve to be held accountable at the ballot box.
Summer Barrios is a member of COVID Survivors for Change, as is her husband Robert. They live in Seneca, South Carolina.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author….