Late 5-year-old’s parents push to protect Obamacare

Tommy Ruddy of Hudsonville died of rare form of brain cancer in November 2016

Tommy Ruddy
Tommy Ruddy smiles from his hospital bed during cancer treatment.

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — In the fall of 2016, tragedy struck the Ruddy family.

Tom and Amanda Ruddy’s 5-year-old son, Tommy, was diagnosed with a rare, inoperable form of brain cancer. After a hard-fought battle, little Tommy ‘gained his angel wings,’ dying on Nov. 3.

“We never thought this would happen. It can happen to anybody,” Tom Ruddy, of Hudsonville, told 24 Hour News 8 Monday.

Just months after Tommy’s death, his parents joined members of the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics at a press conference in Lansing Monday to urge lawmakers to save President Barack Obama’s health care law, which includes some provisions they relied on as their son battled for his life.

Tommy’s pediatrician, Dr. David Dickens, said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — often referred to as Obamacare — makes sure insurance companies cover the costs of expensive clinical research trials. That was the only hope for Tommy during his fight. He passed away just before his planned enrollment.

“No family should have to face what we’ve faced and not have these protections,” Amanda Ruddy said. “We didn’t lose hope of the future.”

The ACA also allows doctors to provide hospice care pending enrollment in a trial, Dickens said, so Tommy was able to be home during his final days.

“He was allowed to be surrounded by his family and be in his own bedroom and with his own toys and his dog,” Amanda Ruddy said.

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. have been fighting over what’s next for the health care law. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to repeal the law, blaming it for high deductibles and rising premiums, and the Republican-led Congress has already taken initial steps toward dismantling it.

But pediatricians at the press conference said the ACA affords bipartisan protections for both adult and child patients –- some little known to the general public. They worry a sudden repeal without a ready replacement would hurt their youngest patients.

“There are parts of it that I disagree with, but with the parts that we’re here to talk about today, we feel that that was a huge plus for us to get through the situation,” Tom Ruddy said.

“We can repeal and replace Obamacare while ensuring hardworking folks do not lose access to care, insurance markets provide more affordable options for families and small businesses, all while protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions,” U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, said in a Monday release to 24 Hour News 8.

“ObamaCare as it stands today is failing and will soon collapse under its own weight, which is why we must leave behind this failed policy and promote solutions that empower patients and care providers. Patient protections such as those preventing insurance companies from excluding coverage due to pre-existing conditions or dropping consumers because of costs associated with long-term care are not exclusive to ObamaCare,” U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, said in a statement. “In fact, the House Republican “Better Way” proposal expands on these important patient protections.”

He added that the new bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act will “enhance the research and development of treatments and cures for some of the rare diseases impacting West Michigan families.”

The Ruddys are also working to raise awareness and raise money to fight DIPG, the rare form of brain cancer with which Tommy was diagnosed.



Team Tommy Army Strong Facebook page

ChadTough Foundation

GoFundMe page for Ruddy family