by Michael Daly · July 14, 2017
Rev. Janice Hill went to D.C. to show pictures of her cancer-stricken daughter, Amy, to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito before the Senate recess. Now the bill is threatening Amy again.
The Senate health-care bill had no sooner poisoned itself with its own meanness at the end of June than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was laboring to revive it.
Just as anybody could have foreseen.
But for those with intensely personal reasons to view the bill with horror, McConnell’s failure to push it through before the Fourth of July had seemed like a great victory.
They included Rev. Janice Hill and her daughter Amy, who seldom FaceTime with each other but felt they had too much to celebrate to settle for a simple phone call when the Senate recessed without voting.
After all, one of the more dramatic moments in the lead-up to the non-vote had come when Hill arrived at the Capitol with a busload of fellow West Virginians and showed their state’s junior senator cellphone photos of Amy.
“I want you to see a picture, a face of somebody who goes along with this,” Hill said as she approached Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.
Hill stood in her clerical collar and held out her cellphone.
“That’s my daughter,” Hill said.
“She’s beautiful,” Capito remarked.
“Yes, she is beautiful,” Hill said. “She doesn’t take after her mom, but that’s OK.”
Hill summoned a second photo on her phone.
“Now I want you to see her in treatment,” Hill then said.
“Oh my God,” Capito exclaimed. “How old is she?”
“She’s 41 years old,” Hill said. ”She’s been fighting this cancer for four years.”
Hill could have noted the irony that the Fourth of July would be the fourth anniversary of when Amy informed her mother that she had been diagnosed with small cell neuroendocrine carcinoma. Hill did note that in just one seven-month period, her daughter’s medical bills for treating this rare and too often fatal cancer had topped $1.2 million, exceeding lifetime caps some insurance companies enforced before the Affordable Care Act.
“She would not be alive today if it wasn’t for the ACA,” Hill said.
Hill added, “These are real people.”
“Right,” Capito said.
“My daughter,” Hill said.
“Right,” Capito said.
“West Virginia needs you so desperately to stand up against this immoral bill,” Hill then told her.
A man who had also come on the bus from West Virginia recorded the encounter with a cellphone and it went viral after he posted the video online. Hill was back home in Parkersburg when the news came that McConnell had decided not to call a vote on the bill some termed the Unaffordable Wealth Care Act.
Amy was in San Francisco, and she had a glass of Champagne when she and her mother connected on FaceTime. Hill took up a libation befitting the pastor of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
“I had my little bottle of water and we toasted together,” Hill told The Daily Beast. “She was so thrilled to hear they had not voted.”
Hill did not fail to note that Capito had been among the Republican senators who opposed the bill.
“I called and thanked her so much for hanging tough,” Hill later recalled.
The Affordable Care Act remained in effect as Amy marked the fourth anniversary of her diagnosis and continued to battle for her life. She underwent three treatments simultaneously.
“Two chemos and immunotherapy,” Hill reported. “She’s fighting.”
Amy also took time to advise and support others who have small cell neuroendocrine carcinoma and big reasons to fear the end of the ACA.
But even then McConnell and his ilk were reconfiguring legislation that ghoulishly seeks to save money instead of lives.
On Thursday, Hill learned that McConnell had unveiled a new formulation of Zombiecare to replace Obamacare.
“We were so thrilled to think that it was over with,” Hill said. “But it continues.”
The new bill sought to be more pleasing to moderates while remaining something conservatives could support, but it failed to win over Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. One more displeased Republican senator would leave McConnell without the 50 votes needed to pass it.
And who should be teetering but Capito of West Virginia.
She released a statement:
“Any health care bill to replace Obamacare must provide access to affordable health care coverage for West Virginians, including our large Medicaid population and those struggling with drug addiction. I opposed the previous draft because it did not ensure access to affordable health care in West Virginia, did not do enough to combat the opioid epidemic that is devastating my state, cut traditional Medicaid too deeply, and harmed rural health care providers.”
She went on, “I look forward to reviewing the revised Senate health care legislation and forthcoming CBO [Congressional Budget Office] report to determine the impact on West Virginians but continue to have serious concerns about the Medicaid provisions.”
On Thursday night, Hill was pondering a trip to West Virginia with the hope of seeing Capito and telling her that West Virginia again so desperately needs her to stand up against an immoral bill. Hill had said during their first encounter that Capito could call her any time if she thought speaking in confidence with a pastor might be helpful.
“My phone didn’t ring yet,” Hill told The Daily Beast on Thursday night. “I’m here if she wants to talk.”
Meanwhile, Amy has undergone new scans. Hill is awaiting word of the results.