AHCA Vote Makes Americans Abroad Anxious
When the results came in on Election Night and the map filled with that awful, glaring red, my husband and I knew we'd been right not to move back.
We'd been living in Berlin for close to a decade -- he, German, and I, American -- but a few years ago I'd felt compelled to return to the US -- a country, it seemed, so much less perfect than my current one, and yet, inexplicably and powerfully, home.
In the two years prior, we'd spoken with dreaminess and some anxiety about returning to New York City, where my family still lived. For a while it seemed like just a fun thought experiment, but then I found myself sifting through real estate listings and job boards. We were both freelancers, able to work from anywhere, but I still wanted to be prepared.
The passage of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) had helped of course, adding a glimmer of hope to our efforts, allowing us to believe we could at least depend on reliable, affordable healthcare of the sort we were lucky to have in Germany.
Then Donald Trump announced his presidency, and from that moment on, the "will they or won't they?" of US politics began to take its emotional toll on us as we swung wildly from one extreme to the other.
First there was the campaign season, when we found a great real estate agent and began gathering documents about our finances. Then we postponed the specifics of our move as Trump got closer and closer to the top of the primary heap.
By the time the election rolled around, we'd resolved to hold off, hoping for the best but assuming the worst.
It was only in the last couple of months that we dared to believe the voices of reason would win out, and perhaps the repeal of Obamacare would never come to pass. We got back in touch with our agent and started researching the green card process.
Now, with the recent House vote on the AHCA bill, we've been left in the lurch once again.
The American Health Care Act (AHCA), a GOP bill, would replace Obamacare. It passed in the House and has to get through the Senate before becoming actual law. It would make getting insurance more difficult for a variety of reasons, especially for women.
Do we continue, assuming the bill that comes out of the Senate will be wildly different from the nightmare currently making the rounds?
Do we hope the Senate will see a bill through quickly, when it has been known to hold things up for months? Will we be on a plane with all of our possessions by then, unable to turn back?
Friends have suggested we simply forge ahead. After all, they reason, if things go south, we can always move back.
These are friends who have never known the stress of a transatlantic move, and yet I fully understand the sense of awe in their voices: At least we are in the privileged position of having somewhere to move back to.
About 8.7 million Americans live abroad, according to the State Department.
In the past few months, I've been surprised by the amount of my American friends in Berlin who, in spite of everything, have expressed interest in returning to the US.
Something about the critical political climate has inspired them to move closer to the center of the maelstrom. They've heeded the call of the resistance from far beyond US borders and decided the country they haven't called home for years is still worth fighting for.
It's hard enough sorting your life out in the US when you're repeatedly threatened with your healthcare being taken away -- but how do we fathom planning a future there, especially when we've got it pretty good right here in Germany?
I'm not going to pretend my reasons aren't mostly personal: My parents are getting older, and one of them had a recent health scare. My sister is graduating, and I'd like to be there for her new forays into adulthood. My grandfather is over 100 years old.
But there's another part of me that still burns with a fierce pride over my hobbled, flawed country.
It's the same part that allows me to criticize America at will, but still makes my temper flare when somebody else does.
Yes, I'm incredibly privileged to be able to leave again, to have been able to leave when I chose to in 2008. But there are so very many who, for reasons financial, personal, familial, simply can't or won't.
I need to go back for them, too, and at least, during this brief calm at the eye of the storm, between the House and the Senate votes, while we still have hope left, I have to believe the AHCA won't stop me.