After voting last night, I settled in on the couch for a long night with my blanket, my dog, my remote control and my cell phone to connect with friends I knew were as invested in the election as I was.
I knew how much was at stake in this election — for women, for health care, for jobs in America, for the middle class — and I was nervous.
I sent a text to my cousin Kenny Quin in Ohio, one of the swing states so many of us were anxious about. He was watching the election results at the home of his close friends, Kevin and Jeni Potter. He told me Kevin had introduced Barack Obama within the last week at Mentor High School in Ohio. Fast and furious, I texted him question after question: What? How? Why?
Kenny told me that Kevin and Jeni’s daughter Erin — whom Kenny was sitting next to on the couch — had leukemia. It showed up when she was three years old. She had a bone marrow transplant, was healthy for about 18 good months, and then the leukemia came back. They found a match for another transplant — but meanwhile the parents were told they were approaching the cap on their health insurance.
And then — then — the Affordable Care Act was passed after momentous effort, and the Potters joined others in giving a collective sigh of relief heard around the country. No more caps. No denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions. Parents can keep children on their health insurance now until age 26. And health insurance companies have to be more accountable, which helps pay for the Act.
And for the Potters, their middle child, Erin, could get her surgery after all.
“She’s so full of life!” said Kenny.
When people faced insurance caps in the past, “Your only option before ObamaCare was to quit your job, go on welfare and get on Medicaid,” he said.
Kevin is a roofer by trade, and Jeni is a public school teacher.
When President Obama was declared the winner last night, Kenny said the Potter family erupted in cheers, screaming and yelling. “They were flipping out,” he said. “We couldn’t wait to color in blue for Ohio. We wanted Ohio. That was the icing on the cake.”
But then — oh then– the sweet flourish on top of the icing on the cake came about 2 am., when President Obama gave his victory speech. He mentioned having met an eight-year-old in Ohio with leukemia, saying “Had it not been for the healthcare reform passing just a few months before, the insurance company was about to stop paying for her care.”
I bolted upright on the couch, realizing he was talking about the same girl who’d been sitting on the couch next to my cousin all night! The girl I’d asked my cousin for a picture of just a few hours earlier!
“As an American I couldn’t be prouder, ” said Kevin when he introduced the president last week. “He fought for Erin and millions of Americans like her.”
As a big supporter of the Affordable Care Act, I am rejoicing that it will not be pounced on and shredded by the person who tried to be president. We need health care. And as Kenny ( a proud, retired NYC firefighter who responded to 9-11) said, we need the auto industry jobs that Obama saved. We need a leader who believes in the middle class. And we need all the Erins we can get.