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Walsh will challenge Senate healthcare bill

Without insurance, Walsh's own experience with cancer would have bankrupted his family, he said, so he's denouncing the bill that would cause financial ruin to others.
Mayor Walsh. Nicolaus Czarnecki, Metro

After the Senate’s healthcare bill was finally revealed last week, disability rights activists, representatives and others have spoken out against the action that would cut Medicaid and impose lifetime caps on “nonessential services.”

Included under nonessential services could be expensive cancer drugs, if a state decides that prescription drugs are not an essential health benefit, according to the American Cancer Society.

That could leave cancer patients and their families in “financial ruin,” the Atlantic warned.

Mayor Marty Walsh knows that devastating possibility all too well.

Walsh, who is currently at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Miami, wrote a blog post over the weekend detailing his own experience with cancer and the effect it had on his family.

“When I was 7, I was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, an aggressive cancer. The doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital gave me two months to live," he wrote. “I spent four years in and out of aggressive treatments, missing second and third grade, fighting for my life when I should’ve been playing hockey.”

Walsh recovered because his family was able to afford that treatment, because they didn’t have to choose between providing care to their sick son or selling the car they needed to get to work, he said.

But that tough choice is something this Senate healthcare bill will force on families, he added.

“I can’t imagine what would’ve happened if my family didn’t have insurance,” Walsh wrote. “My treatment would’ve bankrupted us.”

The bill will put the 34 percent of kids in Massachusetts who receive Medicaid at risk, according to Walsh, and even those with insurance could see lifetime limits put on their care.

During the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Walsh has joined mayors from across the country in challenging the Senate bill.

These mayors see people in their cities struggling with health concerns constantly — like Kayla, who Walsh acknowledged in his blog post for having graduated from fifth grade while battling liver cancer.

“As mayors, we aren’t out of touch with our constituents — like too many members of Congress are,” Walsh said in a statement. "We know our residents — we know their stories. And we’re going to amplify their stories. We will never stop fighting for affordable, quality, and compassionate health care for all."

Walsh acknowledged that his family’s insurance, the doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital and community support led directly to his recovery and the fact that he is alive today.

“If politicians back then had chosen to use the funding for my care to pay for tax cuts for the very wealthiest,” he wrote, “I wouldn’t be.”

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