Kaci Aslamov: My business didn’t collapse under the weight of medical expenses

I’m living cancer-free in large part because of the care I received through the Affordable Care Act. My business, an independent bookstore in central Oregon, didn’t collapse under the weight of medical expenses thanks to the comprehensive coverage my husband and I have been able to secure on the exchange.

Two years ago, I found a patch of skin that concerned me. After a visit to my primary care physician and then to a specialist, doctors told me they had found basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer. Thankfully, treatment was covered by my insurance and I had the surgery I needed to remove the cancerous cells. It was a harrowing experience, but I survived. I have my health, my business and, importantly, my health insurance, which still covers me in the event any more cancerous skin cells are found. 

Should Congress and those trying to undermine the ACA in the courts get their way, people like me will go back to being uninsurable. Imagine being a cancer survivor and not being able to find health insurance. Who would wish that on their worst enemy, let alone subject thousands, perhaps millions, of innocent people to a fate like that?

Needless to say, going without insurance isn’t an option for me. And because my husband is self-employed as well, should protections for cancer survivors like me be stripped away and insurance companies given the go-ahead to deny me coverage because of my health history, I’ll have to find another way to get the insurance I can’t live without.

In all likelihood, that would mean closing my bookstore and looking for work with health benefits. I’d lose the dream I’ve worked for, and Redmond would likely lose a local business. It would be one less bookstore for Amazon and Barnes & Noble to help run out of town. And while I’d like to think I’d find a great job here in Redmond, there’s no guarantee that I will. I may have to commute thirty miles every day to Bend to find work that could support our family.

We should be coming together to improve the ACA so it works better for small business owners like me, our employees and our neighbors. We shouldn’t be trying to kick the legs out from under it. Congress hasn’t found a way to repeal the law yet, but they’re close to successfully using the courts to undermine our fundamental right to basic health care.

Now with Judge Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, our right to health care may very well be trampled upon in order help insurance companies to maximize profits at the expense of the lives of millions of people like me.

Giving insurance companies such a free hand invites a public health disaster. And given what a central role health care provides in creating a stable economy, it will also likely lead to financial upheaval in communities like Redmond all across the country. It certainly won’t help the small business economy my bookstore supports and thrives in. In fact, it will give another leg up to corporations like Amazon and other giant booksellers who use every advantage they already have to knock us little guys out of the market.

It doesn’t take much imagination to envision a better way. But at this juncture, what we need is the courage of our representatives to reject those that would choose insurance companies over people. My business, my livelihood and my health depend upon it.

Kaci Aslamov is owner of Herringbone Books, an independent bookseller in Oregon.