When politicians talk about people with pre-existing conditions, it is my family they are referring to. Looking at us, you'd never imagine that my son has an incurable disease, or that my husband and I both survived cancer, but it's true. More importantly, my family is not rare: As many as 130 million people in America, and more than 300,000 in Alaska, also have a pre-existing condition.
My 16-year-old son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 3, my husband had thyroid cancer when he was 36, and I had skin cancer, including melanoma, when I was 27. When we started our own business 18 years ago, we were thrown into Alaska's high-risk coverage pool. It is an experience of high cost for low coverage that I do not want to repeat.
Today, we primarily buy insulin for my son in Canada, where it only costs about $22 per vial. In the States, it would cost $60-$65 per vial with insurance, and without coverage, as much as $300 per vial. I don't know how we can justify such staggering prices as a country, but I do know we can't continue to let special interest groups or politicians hijack our access to care.
Many Alaskans are also self-employed or work seasonally. This employment makes it particularly difficult to obtain consistent health coverage, which is one of the main hindrances for small businesses in the Last Frontier.
Before my husband and I started our own aircraft leasing company, we worked for a Bush commuter and air taxi service based in Fairbanks. We were determined to build something for ourselves and after years of saving, we did. We never thought our biggest hurdle would be obtaining health insurance for our family.
Insurance companies used to be allowed to charge astronomical prices because of pre-existing conditions, or even block coverage altogether. But that changed with the Affordable Care Act — for the first time, we were not asked about our health care background and finally had options. The insurance my family purchased when the ACA was first passed was fantastic, but it didn't last long. We have been through multiple insurance companies and price increases since then as Republicans in Congress began chipping away at the ACA.
Watching the debate over President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee is infuriating because I know that my family's health care is at risk. Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the Trump nominee, could tip the balance of the court and ultimately decide the fate of health care protections for people like us.
Kavanaugh has already proven his hostility toward health care protections. A rollback on the few protections we have left — most notably, the ability for those with pre-existing conditions to be able to even purchase insurance — would be devastating for all Americans, and especially Alaskans.
Congressional Republicans are still trying to overturn the ACA and eliminate its protections for pre-existing conditions. They are counting on a Supreme Court with Kavanaugh to support their agenda.
Kavanaugh has been called an ultimate Washington, D.C., insider and was selected from a shortlist put together by special interest groups. I do not think Brett Kavanaugh is the right person to make life-and-death decisions for American families.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski is intimately aware of Alaska's unique health care issues, and knows how quickly a family member can be struck with an illness that tags you for life with a pre-existing condition. A Supreme Court nominee who views the courts as a political tool to roll back health care protections puts us all at risk.
Sen. Murkowski has voted to protect our care before. And my family and all Alaskans are counting on her to stand up for health care again.
Colleen Mondor and her husband own an aircraft leasing company based in Fairbanks. She splits time between Alaska and Washington state with her family.