Whitehouse speaks of N.S. woman during hearing on Supreme Court justice


WASHINGTON, D.C. – At the confirmation hearings for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee this week, Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse used the story of a woman from North Smithfield to illustrate what he deemed a need to protect Americans covered by the Affordable Care Act.

Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Whitehouse said that Judge Amy Coney Barrett aims to repeal the law, “on which over 20 million Americans rely for health insurance.”

“America is worried about one thing above all else right now and it is our health,” said Whitehouse. “This slapdash hearing targets the Affordable Care Act. This supreme court nominee has signaled in the judicial equivalent of all caps that she believes the Affordable Care Act must go.”

“I hope Republicans consider what’s at stake,” Whitehouse said.

The senator said he’s heard from thousands of Rhode Islanders asking him not to confirm the nominee, pointing specifically to “Laura S. from North Smithfield, Rhode Island.”

“Laura’s brother saved her life when he donated one of his kidneys,” Whitehouse said, reading a portion of a note he received from the North Smithfield woman, who suffers from hereditary nephritis – a preexisting condition the senator said is protected under the ACA. 

“Without the ACA and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions, insurance premiums — If I am able to get insurance at all — will be financially out of reach for me and I will no longer be able to afford the health monitoring – labs, specialist appointments – and treatment that are essential for my kidney to function,” the note stated. “My immunosuppressive medications alone would cost about $48,000 annually.”

“Before the ACA, patients like me experienced times when they would come up against a life-threatening wall – not in treatment – but in the annual or lifetime caps on coverage insurers were allowed to impose,” it continued. “I can’t imagine what this would have meant for me: bankruptcy or worse.”

Americans are dying by the hundreds of thousands,” Whitehouse said. “With stories like Laura’s coming in from around the country, why would we rush forward?”

A photo of the North Smithfield resident was also sent out in the senator’s posts on social media following the start of the hearing on Monday, Oct. 12.

Hearings on the nominee are expected to continue through Thursday, Oct. 15.

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