Published: February 28, 2017

SEIU 503 board member Maleta Christian is sitting next to Senator Ron Wyden at the President’s address to the joint session of Congress tonight. She was invited to D.C. because she’s fighting to save healthcare for millions of Americans. Here is Maleta’s story.

In 2011, layoffs cost Maleta Christian her job as pre-school teacher and set her on a path to where she is tonight: fighting on behalf of millions of Americans who are on the brink of losing their healthcare.

Before 2011, Maleta got her health insurance the same way most Americans do, through her employer. But when budget cuts cost Maleta her job, she lost that coverage and spent the better part of a year living without insurance.

“I felt like I was one accident or illness away from disaster,” Maleta said. “I could never have afforded the bill if something had gone seriously wrong.”

In 2012, things were looking up. Maleta began working as a personal support worker for two consumers with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Soon she was able to purchase insurance through the statewide exchange created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For the first time in a year, she was fully covered and could resume going to the doctor. That’s when life threw her another twist.

In 2012, Maleta was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She would need treatment, including surgery, that would cost tens of thousands of dollars. With her insurance, Maleta was able to get the care she needed, and eventually she beat the cancer.  

Before the ACA, this wouldn’t have been possible. Her pre-existing conditions, lapse of coverage, and coverage needs would have it impossible for her to purchase an insurance plan. The experience made Maleta an outspoken advocate for hundreds of thousands of Oregonians, and millions of Americans, who rely on the ACA for healthcare — people like her who, without the ACA, might not be here today.

Tonight, Maleta is sitting next to Senator Ron Wyden during the State of the Union address. She is there because the healthcare law that saved her life is at risk. With no plan to replace it, some Congressional leaders are pushing to repeal the ACA. If that happens, 400,000 Oregonians could lose their healthcare and pre-existing conditions could once again prevent a person from buying their own health insurance plan.

Maleta knows that we cannot repeal the law without a plan to protect people’s healthcare. She will do whatever it takes to make sure we don’t go back.

The Affordable Care Act means a lot for Oregon. If the ACA is repealed and there is no plan in place to replace it, we will face some big problems. Here are some facts from

  • Nationally, 18 million people could lose their health insurance. In Oregon, the uninsured rate could nearly triple if the law is repealed without a replacement.
  • The ACA’s coverage expansion has saved Oregon hospitals millions in uncompensated care costs, which will be passed onto consumers in the form of higher healthcare costs if the law is repealed.
  • Oregon would lose a total of 42,000 jobs if the ACA is repealed.
  • In 2016, Oregon received $10.4 million in federal funds through the ACA for immunization, teen suicide prevention, and other core public health services. ACA repeal puts these programs at risk.