Rev. Janice Hill wasn’t planning to go to D.C. last Tuesday, but her daughter’s health was so important, she skipped a meeting and got on a bus.
Several hours later, the West Virginia pastor found herself in a meeting with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R), where she showed the lawmaker a photo of her daughter Amy, a cancer survivor, and asked her not to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“These are real people. My daughter,” the nervous Hill said as the senator listened. “And so I just want you to have that in your brain when you look at this.”
The encounter was filmed and posted online:
“The next thing you know, somebody said, ‘Girl, it’s gone viral,'” Hill says in an interview.
Hill’s conversation with Capito has been watched over 4 million times since it went public on Thursday.
The polite yet dogged exchange struck a chord with Americans who fear that new Senate legislation released last week could endanger their ability to pay for care by doing away with consumer protections implemented by the ACA.
Capito has yet to take a position on the bill, which would make substantial cuts to Medicaid and allow states to enable private plans to waive certain “essential” health benefits. CNN included Capito on a list of 12 Republican senators whose votes remain in play.
Capito’s office has not responded to Upworthy’s request for a comment.
Amy was diagnosed with neuroendocrine small cell carcinoma, a rare form of endocrine cancer, in July 2013 — an illness she’s still fighting to this day.
Hill fears her daughter, who gets coverage through her employer, has already exceeded any prospective lifetime benefits cap, which would end insurance payments over a certain lifetime dollar amount or on specific benefits. The ACA outlawed such caps, but they could be brought back under the new legislation.
Within the first seven months of her treatment, Amy had already accumulated more than $1.2 million in costs.
“She is not a drain on this country,” Hill says. “She’s been a marathon runner. She doesn’t smoke. Drinks very little. Is in great physical shape. And yet, her world and my world got turned upside down when she got that phone call about this cancer.”
Opposition to the legislation emerged swiftly after the text of the bill was made public on June 22.
On June 22, over 50 activists with disabilities from ADAPT were arrested outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office while protesting the bill’s proposed Medicaid cuts.
Meanwhile, thousands have turned to social media to express concern about how the legislation might affect their families who depend on Medicaid, have pre-existing conditions, or have chronic illnesses that are expensive to treat. A Congressional Budget Office report estimates that 22 million fewer Americans will be insured by 2026 if the bill becomes law.
Hill, who has spoken privately with many of her congregants about their health challenges, says the legislation is “the most immoral bill that has come about in a long time.”
In addition to her daughter’s spiraling costs, she worries the bill would create an untenable situation for the 30% of West Virginians enrolled in Medicaid and the rural hospitals that would be in danger of shutting down if the program is gutted.
On June 26, Hill joined a rally in Charleston to encourage her fellow West Virginians to continue pressuring the state’s two senators to reject the bill.
Initially, she planned to use some of her time to praise Capito for listening.
Instead, Hill told attendees at the rally that the tone of the conversation was less important than what the senator plans to do next.
“I very passionately said, ‘You know what? She was nice to me, but so what? I don’t care if she’s nice to me,'” Hill explains. “She could have called me every name in the book, she could have spit in my face, and I don’t care. I just want her to vote the correct way.'”