Maryland gubernatorial candidate Alec Ross (D) is using his son’s recent experience with a potentially life-threatening thyroid condition to lambaste efforts by congressional Republicans to roll back the federal government’s role in health care.
In eight tweets Tuesday after Senate Republicans opened debate on legislation to repeal the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, the Baltimore tech entrepreneur explained how his family’s robust insurance plan paid for a successful surgery to remove tumors from 10-year-old Sawyer’s neck.
The elder Ross accused “privileged members of Congress” of trying to trade access to health care for tax cuts that would benefit the wealthy.
Ross, who has criticized Gov. Larry Hogan (R) for taking a more measured approach to opposing the GOP plans, said the repeal efforts are “a sign of a damaged America.”
Ross is one of five Democrats who have announced bids for the governorship. The others are Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, former NAACP president Benjamin Jealous, state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (Montgomery) and attorney James Shea.
In an interview, Ross explained that Sawyer was diagnosed this year with a genetic mutation that caused noncancerous tumors to form on his thyroid gland. The lumps could have become cancerous if they had not been removed, he said.
Ross, who is self-employed and uses individual insurance coverage, said his son was fortunate to have access to annual checkups with a pediatrician who was trained at one of the nation’s top medical schools and discovered the lumps on his neck.
His insurance plan, which costs about $2,000 each month, covered care for Sawyer at Johns Hopkins University Hospital and surgery to remove the thyroid by a renowned pediatric surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He estimated that the total cost of treatment was more than $100,000, of which he expects to pay less than $2,000 out of pocket.
“The course of care he got would have been inaccessible for someone without health insurance,” Ross said. “It ought not be that 10-year-olds get tumors treated if their parents have good health insurance and don’t have them addressed if their parents don’t have health insurance.”
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the Republican measures to replace the Affordable Care Act could increase the number of uninsured Americans by tens of millions. They would also reduce federal funding for Medicaid, forcing states to either spend more for the program or scale it back.
“If Donald Trump’s Washington is dismantling systems of care for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Marylanders, it really matters who the governor is,” he said. “In the face of the dysfunction of Donald Trump’s Washington, any leadership is going to have to come from the states.”
Hogan, who survived a battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma earlier in his term, joined a group of 11 governors — Democrats, Republicans and one independent — this month in calling for Congress to reject repeal efforts and seek bipartisan solutions for fixing the nation’s insurance markets.
A spokeswoman for Hogan has repeatedly said the GOP plans “do not work for Maryland.”
Ross also criticized Hogan for tapping Robert E. Moffit, a critic of the Affordable Care Act and senior fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation, to chair the state’s health-care commission.
Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chasse has described such criticism as “partisan noise,” noting that the state’s Democratic-majority Senate twice confirmed Moffit to serve on the health-care panel in the past, and that the group does not determine federal health-care policy or Maryland’s response to it.
Among Maryland’s Democratic candidates for governor, Ross, Jealous and Madaleno have staked out the most progressive positions on health care. Jealous has said he would push for a state-run, single-payer health-care system if he wins the office, while Ross and Madaleno have expressed support for a state-run public option.
A single-payer system is one in which the government provides health coverage for everyone, whereas a public option would mean the state setting up a health program to compete with private insurance.