Have you ever had the perfect chocolate chip cookie? One that’s just soft enough, has the perfect amount of chocolate chips and sugar, and is flawlessly complimented by a glass of milk? Growing up, I was lucky to experience the sensation of eating just this type of cookie many times.

The Jones’ house was always my favorite to go to when I was younger. Cole Jones, one of my childhood best friends, was one of seven children raised by Sam and Patty Jones. Although the kids each added a particular element to the house, Sam and Patty were really the two that gave the house the character that I loved. Above all else, Patty added the single most important characteristic of all: her famed recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

No matter what was going on, I knew that I could always go to the Jones’ house and receive a great meal, usually a cookie, and a warm welcome. It was my home away from home.

Last month I received a phone call from my mom. Her voice cracked as it always does right before she delivers bad news. Patty Jones had had a seizure the night before and was taken to the hospital where they found a sizable tumor in her brain. Patty was diagnosed with advanced-stage brain cancer.

My heart dropped when I heard the news. Patty was the epitome of a healthy and active woman. Famous for riding her bike dozens of miles a day, Patty was in great shape and seemed like the last person who could get sick. But as it always does, cancer showed me once again that its victims were those who you would least expect.

While dealing with the initial shock of hearing that a mother figure from my childhood was facing a fatal diagnosis, my mom gave me possibly worse news: Patty doesn’t have health insurance. Suddenly my emotions were overcome with the practical assertions that come with that statement. I knew that medical bills are the number one cause for bankruptcy in the United States. Worst of all, I knew that instead of focusing on beating cancer like she should, Patty was going to have to figure out how to pay for her skyrocketing health costs.

Last week I talked to Patty’s oldest daughter, Gina, who has taken the lead in caring for her mother. Although Gina sounded strong and confident in her mother’s ability to beat cancer, I could tell that she was frustrated with the endless loops that she had gone through in the past couple weeks. Like millions of Americans, Gina and her mom have repeatedly gone onto healthcare.gov only to be led to a dead end.

They’ve tried calling the help line and they were told that there is a plan that Patty qualifies for, but that it wouldn’t go into effect until January 1. When Gina tried looking into private insurers, all of them were uninterested in Patty’s preexisting condition and resoundingly rejected her plan. Until January 1, Patty will have to pay for everything out of pocket.

So far, Patty has received a brain biopsy and a craniotomy to reduce the size of the tumor. These procedures cost $51,000 and $49,000 respectively. In four weeks, Patty will begin a radiation and chemotherapy treatment plan in which each round of treatment will cost anywhere between $20,000 and $65,000.

These numbers are staggering, but luckily Patty has the love and support of her family and friends. In fact, Gina and her siblings have started an account on giveforward.com for their mother and have raised $53,000 and counting.

What about those who aren’t fortunate enough to have a team behind them for their battle against cancer? Who makes the phone calls to every neurosurgeon on the East Coast for these people? Who has their back?

The Affordable Care Act was a giant step in trying to help millions of uninsured Americans while also lowering costs for those already insured. Unfortunately, the rollout for the ACA has been an absolute nightmare. Healthcare.gov has countless bugs that are leaving millions of people without answers as to how they are supposed to meet the March 31, 2014 deadline of signing up for health insurance.

The ACA undeniably has its flaws, but the need for reform is still very much alive. There are approximately 48-million uninsured Americans. These people aren’t bottom-feeders or slackers — they’re our family members, our neighbors and, in some cases, our favorite cookie bakers. To simply forget these people amongst all of the political banter that has, and will, continue to be thrown around would be a travesty.

Health care is a right, not a privilege. The ACA needs some serious work, but giving up on healthcare reform now would be a massive step backward in fixing our broken system. The political back-and-forth surrounding the healthcare bill overlooks people like Patty Jones — people who can’t wait for the Republican answer to what they call an “insidious” law. They need coverage, coverage that’s not hinging on legislative plays.

If anyone is going to beat cancer, it’s Patty. But we need to make sure as a country that we have Patty’s back.

Patrick Maillet can be reached at maillet@umich.edu.

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