"I’m 38 years old and I’m a cancer survivor and I will be for the rest of my life," explained Melissa "Nikki" Mackey, a slight woman with a tremulous voice, by way of introduction. "But cancer was not in my plans."
Less than two years ago, Mackey was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, nine months after losing her job. Fortunately, she had extended health insurance coverage through COBRA to help shoulder the costs of four surgeries (including two mastectomies), the 16 rounds of chemotherapy, and the continued, targeted chemo she continues to receive to this day to help ensure her aggressive cancer doesn't return.
She struggles to pay for chemo, therapy, and her monthly insurance premiums, estimating that her recent treatments have cost $250,000 alone.
And in front of a small crowd this morning, Mackey wept as she described the fear she lived with, knowing "that Rob McKenna and others with a political agenda are desperately seeking to take away the Affordable Care Act." Because if they succeed, Mackey will likely be subjected to the lifetime caps on insurance coverage ($1 million to $8 million caps that the ACA immediately repealed), which means that, at some point, she won't be able to afford the kind of medical care that is keeping her alive and healthy.
Another plaintiff in the lawsuit against McKenna, Karah Pino, spoke of how a car accident left her with permanent damage to her hands and spine. Although Pino had car and health insurance, and even though the other (insured) driver admitted fault, the $100,000 payout was not enough to cover all of her medical bills. She and her 20-month-old son now live in poverty. Pino is unable to make more than $900 a month or risk losing the Medicaid coverage she qualifies for as a single parent. "The past two years, I have been counting down to 2014 and staying at home with my son," Pino says, waiting for the day that she'll qualify for subsidies offered through the ACA and can build a life for herself and her son without fearing it'll cost them their health coverage.
When pressed by reporters on the political timing of the lawsuit's filing, given that McKenna is in the belly of a tight governor's race, lead attorney Knoll Lowney swiftly replied, "The governor's race is so insignificant when compared to the decision before US court that your question almost makes no sense.”
"This case is about McKenna’s performance as an AG," he continued.
"I didn’t get cancer for a political reasons and I didn’t endure 20 months of chemo for a governor’s race," Mackey smartly added. "I don’t care who’s governor."
But even as this lawsuit is being framed as a women's health issue, the important thing to remember as 90 women gear up to sue the pompadour off Rob McKenna is that his actions adversely affect the health of every Washington resident.
For instance, since the staggered implementation of the ACA began in 2010, all new health plans must now cover preventative services—like flu shots, prenatal screenings, colon cancer screenings, and blood pressure tests—without a co-payment.
The act also allows 52,000 young Washington residents to stay on their parents health insurance plans until age 26; It prohibits insurance companies from dropping policies once their clients become sick; It ensures that children with pre-existing conditions can't be denied coverage; And it forces insurance companies to publicly justify raising their premium rates by 10 percent or more.
But all of those benefits and protections could be voided if McKenna and his cronies succeed on overturning the entire ACA, and not simply the individual mandate, as McKenna has repeatedly professed to the residents of Washington.