Newberry resident Sam Martin says when he worked as a correctional officer in 1987, he was taken hostage by an inmate at Manning Correctional Institute in Columbia.
Martin survived, hurt but alive.
He lost his job at the prison a year later, and therefore lost his health insurance. From ages 50 to 62, Martin said he was unable to pay for some routine medical check-ups, like a colonoscopy.
When he signed up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act, his doctor discovered he had 27 polyps in his colon — two of which were malignant. A colon polyp is a small clump of cells that forms on the lining of the colon. Most colon polyps are harmless but, over time, some can become cancerous.
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“I think we all need health care in this country,” said Martin, who has undergone weeks of radiation and chemotherapy to treat his colon cancer. “The inmates who hurt me get it for free. Our president, our representatives in Congress get it because we pay for it.”
Martin was among several people from South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District who spoke out Thursday morning against the version of the American Health Care Act passed last month by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Critics of the plan said it would knock thousands of South Carolinians off health insurance, putting them at a greater risk of illness or injury. They advocated for the election of S.C. Democratic 5th District Congressional candidate Archie Parnell over Republican favorite Ralph Norman on June 20.
Parnell has indicated he will vote to amend and fix ACA, or Obamacare, while Norman has advocated its full repeal and replacement.
June 20 South Carolina’s special election for the Fifth Congressional District will be held Tuesday, June 20
“Obamacare is a disaster,” Norman said in a statement. “It’s a disaster for patients, doctors, business, or our district. Yet Archie Parnell continues to defend its massive taxes and unfair mandates. I believe Republicans need to keep their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare with a free-market-based health care plan that we all can afford.”
The Republicans’ plan, pushed through by a narrow vote in the House of Representatives, is now under consideration in the U.S. Senate. Republican senators have indicated they will craft their own bill and bring it to the floor when they believe they can pass it.
AHCA in its current form is a “plastic plan,” according to Catherine Bruce, an insurance specialist for nonprofit organization Palmetto Project. If a similar version of the bill is passed in the Senate, she said, it will provide little of the same coverage that the ACA currently does.
“It’s a single, cheap throwaway that doesn’t provide the support for cancer treatments or diagnostics or anything like that,” she said.
Republicans have been critical of ACA, arguing that it has raised premiums too high. But South Carolina Democrats have balked at a possible replacement, arguing that it could leave 23 million people without health insurance by 2026, according to an analysis released by the Congressional Budget Office.
The Center for American Progress argues that an estimated 64,700 people in the 5th District would be harmed by the repeal of ACA.
Tuesday’s election will be a choice between the voting records of Parnell andr Norman, according to Lessie Price, first vice-chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party.
“We need to elect Parnell to vote for the health care of all Americans,” said Price, during a SCDP event in Rock Hill. “He understands the view of the 5th. This election’s winner could be the deciding vote to protect the Affordable Care Act.”
Dr. John Holder, a political science instructor at Winthrop University, said the ACA allowed him to become a part of Winthrop’s health plan for the first time in 20 years.
This election’s winner could be the deciding vote to protect the Affordable Care Act.
Lessie Price, first vice-chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party
“I’m better off because of it,” he said. “If it’s repealed, many, many millions of people would be worse off.”
Martin will have an operation on June 26 at Newberry County Memorial Hospital, where his colon will be removed completely. He said the surgeons will then restructure a new colon for him, but he’ll likely need to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of his life.
He asked his doctor, if Obamacare was repealed, whether his surgery would be able to go forward.
“They said, ‘I hope so,’” said Martin. “My life is on the line with this. I don’t like the idea of having a colostomy bag, but it beats death in spades.”
Obamacare is a disaster. It’s a disaster for patients, doctors, business, or our district.
Republican candidate for SC’s 5th District Ralph Norman
What’s happening next in South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District election?
▪ The election will be held June 20, but absentee voting hours are currently available until then.
▪ Ralph Norman, Archie Parnell, Green Party candidate David Kulma and American Party candidate Josh Thornton will all feature in a South Carolina Educational Television (SCETV) debate to be aired June 16.