WASHINGTON — For U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, the political fight over insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions hits close to home.
The Holly Democrat said her mother died of ovarian cancer in 2011 after suffering from breast cancer when she was a young mother in her 30s. Her mom had struggled to get health insurance for years due to her pre-existing condition, and wasn’t insured when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“For me, this issue is particularly personal. It is a major reason why I ended up coming here to Congress,” Slotkin said on the U.S. House floor.
That was ahead of a vote on legislation to block the President Trump administration from granting state waivers critics warn could limit protections and raise insurance costs for people with pre-existing conditions.
She was coping with her mom’s terminal diagnosis at the same time she was trying to deal with the paperwork for her bankruptcy, Slotkin told the Michigan Advance in an interview on Thursday.
“That was just a really horrible time for me and my family and I wouldn’t want that for anyone,” she said.
Slotkin joined all seven Michigan Democrats in voting on Thursday to approve the bill titled the “Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act.” The bill passed by a largely partisan vote of 230-183.
Trump has threatened to veto the legislation. Republicans accused Democrats of attaching a misleading title to the measure, which the GOP says will limit states’ flexibility. All seven of Michigan’s Republican House members voted against the measure.
Pre-existing conditions were central to Slotkin’s 2018 congressional race, in which she unseated Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop. She accused him on the campaign trail of attempting to gut coverage for pre-existing conditions by voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“The other side has taken the past two years to do everything that they can to undercut protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” Slotkin told the Advance.
She said that regardless of politics, the country largely believes that “if you get sick you shouldn’t go broke” and “if you happen to be born with a pre-existing condition, you shouldn’t be gouged for it for the rest of your life.”
Slotkin said that although her mother’s situation had inspired her to run for Congress, she didn’t initially discuss it on the campaign trail.
“And then I talked about it once and it was like everyone leaned forward in their seats, everyone came up to me afterward and had their own story of their struggle with health care, their parents’ struggle with health care,” she said. “That’s when I knew this was much bigger than any one policy, any one family. We are going to be the generation that has to figure out health care and it is not where it needs to be right now.”
Slotkin isn’t among the sponsors of a Medicare for All bill that got its first committee hearing last week. Four other Michiganders are co-sponsors: U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield), Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit).
Slotkin said supports people being able to buy in to Medicare at any age.
“I think there should always be an option, so that if you’re a student, or if you’re between jobs or if you’re an entrepreneur and you want to start your own business, that you will always have a plan that provides good coverage at a good price,” she said.
“I think people deserve options, but they should always have an option of Medicare, for anyone at any age.”