Dear Senator Collins,

I am one of your constituents. I have resided in the Camden, Maine area (04843) for 30 years and been a partner in a small business, an architecture practice, for 20. For my entire career, I have worked for or owned small businesses. We are the engine of Maine’s economy. I am also a cancer survivor.

I have never received health coverage as an employment benefit. I never expected to. Having to foot one’s own insurance bill was standard practice for small businesses. I knowingly accepted that burden. 

I have always understood buying insurance as betting against myself. Assuming something catastrophic was going to come down the pike, I paid into a system from which I might never see results. That was a gamble I was willing to take.

I expect the house to win more than lose. That’s why they are in business. I just don’t want the house to play with loaded dice. 

I have always carried catastrophic insurance ($5,000 per person deductible) for myself and my family, because the cost of individual coverage has been prohibitive. If I break a bone, I will be the one paying for it. That’s fine with me, personal responsibility and all that. I buy insurance in case I’m hit by a bus.

In 2010 I was hit by the bus. Healthy all my life, never having had one insurance claim, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May and a perforated colon in December. 

It was an expensive year. Luckily I had insurance and Anthem was (mostly) terrific. I’m certain I exhausted most or all of what I had paid in premiums during the previous 20 years. My gamble broke about even.

One of my first thoughts, after the shock of learning I had cancer, was to thank God the Affordable Care Act had been passed just one month previously. I had no idea where my disease was headed, but at least I had the assurance that I couldn’t be dumped like a bad investment or hit the loaded dice of a lifetime limit.

However, for the past seven years, I — along with every other person with a bad diagnosis — have been living under the sword of Damocles, namely the constant threat of ACA repeal.

However much people enjoy the fiction of rugged individualism, I’d wager there are few freedom-loving people who, if faced with a health crisis, would say, “It’s okay. Just let me die. I don’t have the cash.” No, they expect to be cared for, passing their uninsured buck on to family, friends and the rest of us in the form of higher hospital bills which, in turn, drive up our insurance costs.

The ACA puts the onus on the individual to have insurance. This seems fair to me, and arguments against this principle — for so long as we are a society which demands mutual care — seems disingenuous.  

In conclusion, as your constituent, I am asking you, please don’t gamble with our nation’s health. 

The ACA is working. Please take pride-of-party out of the equation and work to improve the ACA without destroying a functioning, market-based solution.

Sincerely yours,

Meg Barclay, Camden