Valyria Lewis is pictured in May 2021.

Valyria Lewis is pictured in May 2021. (Photo credit: GFayDesigns)

Union members enjoy access to benefits, such as great health insurance, that support and uplift the economic security of working-class Americans. But many Americans, such as Valyria “Vee” Lewis in Berlin, New Hampshire, worry about losing their health insurance if they lose their job.

In December 2020, Vee was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that causes severe inflammation in her joints and requires her to take daily immunosuppressant drugs. Recently, her doctors found a potentially cancerous mass in her duodenum, which has prompted several major procedures. Fortunately, she has a stable union job that provides good-quality health insurance, but she worries about affording her treatments if she ever were to leave that job or when she retires. She hopes one day, that health care won’t be tied to employment.

I’ve joined Facebook support groups for survivors, and so many people with conditions like mine worry about being able to afford their prescriptions and treatments. I am very blessed that I haven’t had to worry about that and that my doctors caught my stomach problem early. A lot of people with my diagnoses can’t work at all. If I didn’t have a job with good insurance, I’d be a dead duck. Valyria Lewis

The American Rescue Plan expanded health care coverage to millions of Americans. But for the many people who didn’t see a reduction in their health care costs, Congress must continue to implement policies that reduce costs and expand coverage.

Read more stories on economic justice and health care

This storybook features women in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire whose stories center on issues from prescription drug pricing and health insurance, to child care and paid leave.

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