by Thao Nguyen, Outreach Manager,
National Women's Law Center
During the health care reform debate, my family called me on a daily basis to get updates. Yes, part of it was that they were concerned about long work hours, my diet consisting of grilled cheese sandwiches and Ramen, and my overall sanity. But it was also because my family, like millions of Americans around the country, felt that advocating for passage of reform was the only way that they could control our hopeless situation—my mom’s inability to get health insurance because of an illness in her teenage years. Her past had come back to haunt her, and now the insurance industry had branded her with a "pre-existing condition" label.
As a former small business owner of nearly 20 years and a current non-profit employee, my mom has dedicated her life to ensuring that our family had the best medical care possible. When my father was laid off, she selflessly took a second job on top of running her daycare to make sure our family had good health insurance. With her children all grown, my mother decided to follow her dream of working for a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of Vietnamese-American immigrants. But with the crumbling California economy, the organization took a hit and her hours and benefits were cut. A short gap in her insurance before taking the job meant my mom suddenly was one of millions of Americans with a pre-existing condition unable to get coverage.