Ahead of health care vote, Joe Kennedy recalls getting the phone call ‘everyone dreads’

Boston, MA. 11/13/15, Joshua Miller interviews Rep. Joe Kennedy III -- the latest edition of Political Happy Hour. At Suffolk Law School.
Suzanne Kreiter/Suzanne Kreiter
–Suzanne Kreiter / The Boston Globe

Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy shared the story of how he got ‘the call everyone dreads’ informing him a loved one was in the hospital ahead of the House vote on the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

In an op-ed published Wednesday in U.S. News & World Report, the Democrat wrote about how he felt five years ago when he learned his then-fiancee and now wife, Lauren, was headed to an emergency room after collapsing at work.

It’s a moment painfully familiar to many,” he said. “Time stops. You fight to push your breath down your throat. Your brain gets stuck on a highlight reel of worst-case scenarios. You are sick. You are terrified.”

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Lauren ended up being OK, and Kennedy credited the couple’s health coverage for allowing them to focus on her recovery.

“For all families in America, that is – or should be – the shared expectation for our country’s health care system,” he said. “Not some abstract assembly of budget scores and growth rates and insurance markets, but a lifeline. A collective commitment this society makes to care for one another in our time of deepest need. The Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act shatters that commitment.”

The Congressional Budget Office found that the Republican bill to repeal and replace the health care law known as Obamacare would leave 52 million people uninsured by 2026.

Kennedy said the first step to tackling the problems with health care in the country is to reject the repeal and replacement plan.

Few of us are spared the kind of phone call I got five years ago. None of us escape our time on Earth without watching someone we love fight for their life, their body or their breath. It is that experience – universal, undiscriminating and deeply human – that underscores the true vision for a just American health care system: A social contract we fortify not just out of sympathy for the suffering but so that it is there for us, too, when we need its sturdy brace.

The Massachusetts Democrat has been a fierce opponent of the GOP bill and has repeatedly called it an “act of malice.”

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