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Cancer puts health care battle for political operative on 2 fronts

Ian Danely, who runs One Arizona, an advocacy group aimed at getting more people to vote and increasing civic engagement, walks the halls of the Mayo Clinic in 2015 during treatment for anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a rare blood cancer.

Ian Danely, who runs One Arizona, an advocacy group aimed at getting more people to vote and increasing civic engagement, walks the halls of the Mayo Clinic in 2015 during treatment for anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a rare blood cancer.

Ian Danley is fighting for his life for the third time in four years, and yet he has decided to take on another fight – health care for the hundreds of thousands of Arizonans covered through the Affordable Care Act.

The 36-year-old father of two, who found out two weeks ago that he’s facing cancer again, said he’s not one to back down from a fight.

“I can sit and get scared and hunker down and feel sorry for myself, or I can fight. And I’m kind of a fighter,” said Danley, who has worked on Democratic campaigns and now runs One Arizona, an advocacy group aimed at getting more people to vote and increasing civic engagement.

He took both battles to social media in a series of frank and personal tweets as the debate in the U.S. Senate heated up over the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“I’m calling you from my chemo chair to protect AZ health care. Vote No!” Danley tweeted to U.S. Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain on July 14, complete with a photo of him with an IV in his arm.

While Congress continues to debate health care, expect to see more social media posts from Danley calling on elected officials to vote against repealing the ACA.

It became clear on July 17 the plan did not have enough votes to pass. Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to simply repeal the ACA in two years without a replacement, but that plan doesn’t appear to have the needed votes either.

As someone who has worked in politics, he gets that it’s politically difficult for Flake and McCain right now. But he hopes his personal story will resonate with the men and get them to vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act.

McCain and Danley both were actually at Mayo Clinic on July 14 at the same time. McCain was recovering from brain surgery he underwent at the hospital to remove a blood clot. McCain announced July 19 doctors diagnosed him with brain cancer.

Danley was also at Mayo’s campus, starting up treatment for the third time to fight anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a rare blood cancer.

He was first misdiagnosed in 2013 with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and got treated, then the cancer came back after about a year. The second time, he was managing the campaign for Democratic superintendent of public instruction candidate David Garcia when he felt a lump. He knew it was cancer again. He went through a stem cell transplant and spent a month at Mayo Clinic recovering.

He thought he was fine. He started posting old pictures of his previous treatments to social media as a warning call to the state’s elected officials. Then, during a routine scan two weeks ago, doctors found a small lump.

His current course of treatment will last 54 weeks, with infusions of a more targeted chemo drug every three weeks during that time.

He has insurance coverage through his employer, but he’s still worried about what could happen. Repealing the Affordable Care Act entirely could make coverage requirements for pre-existing conditions, like his cancer, disappear. Essential health benefits, like cancer treatment, could be weakened.

If lifetime limits are allowed to come back, something prohibited under Obamacare, he’s already gotten $1.2 million worth of treatment over the past few years. He’s only had to pay less than $5,000 out of pocket.

It’s unclear what the path is for Republicans. A 2015 plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, vetoed by President Obama, would have kept protections for things like pre-existing conditions in place while ending Medicaid expansion and subsidies.

McCain said in a statement July 17 that one of Obamacare’s central problems was partisanship, as the ACA passed without any Republican votes.

“As this law continues to crumble in Arizona and states across the country, we must not repeat the original mistakes that led to Obamacare’s failure,” McCain said.

“The Congress must now return to regular order, hold hearings, receive input from members of both parties, and heed the recommendations of our nation’s governors so that we can produce a bill that finally provides Americans with access to quality and affordable health care,” he said.

Flake’s office said July 18 that he supports repealing Obamacare without a replacement, just as he did in 2015.

But in a statement last week, while the Republican plan was still alive, Flake said his vote on any health care plan would balance fiscal sustainability with ensuring people with coverage don’t have the rug pulled out from under them.

Danley tried to appeal to Flake’s sense of family in his tweets after he saw how Flake spoke of his father, Dean Flake, when he died at age 85 on June 27.

“I want to live so I can have a relationship with my son Tyler like you had with your dad. Give me that chance,” Danley tweeted on July 10.

Danley’s son is 4 years old. He said he believes his treatment will work, if it continues to be covered.

“And if I don’t make it, (my kids are) not going to remember me. I’m just going to be this guy in a photo they’re going to tell stories about,” he said.

He said he knows Flake is a good man. And he understands that Flake is in a tough spot politically – if he doesn’t vote to repeal Obamacare, his Republican primary challenger will go after him. If he does, his Democratic challenger will.

“It’s a risky move either way. So do the right thing and let the chips fall where they may. And you can look your kids in the face, look yourself in the face, and say, I walked with integrity,” Danley said.

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