‘It’s Human Beings’December 3, 2013 - Author: newscoma
I spent a huge chunk of my life in rural west Tennessee as anyone who has read me throughout the years knows. And the idea that rural healthcare is basically under attack due to political maneuvering makes me seethe.
I’ll let Jeff Woods break it down for you:
Rural hospitals in Tennessee have been laying off workers and cutting services “to the bone” thanks to our Republican supermajority’s refusal to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.
That’s according to hospital administrators surveyed by The Tennessean and the Jackson Sun in some solid journalism over the weekend. Many rural hospitals are thinking about closing maternity wards and ending cancer treatment, among other services.
Contrast that bad news with this happy Washington Post story from Kentucky, where the Affordable Care Act is running smoothly and enrolling people right and left.
“Cashiers from the IGA grocery, clerks from the dollar store, workers from the lock factory, call-center agents, laid-off coal miners, KFC cooks”—all have been signing up at a clinic in Kentucky’s Breathitt County, one of the nation’s poorest.
When my mother was ill in the late ’90s, there wasn’t a local oncologist. A doctor did come every couple of weeks to Martin to administer chemotherapy but there were times that I would have to drive her to either Jackson or Paducah for treatment. After sitting five to seven hours on a drip of liquid poison, the ride home for her was excruciating. It’s a bit frustrating living in Nashville knowing that my father, if he needed immediate medical attention, would be basically put further away from help.
This is the reality of living in rural areas.
I know that our governor is politicizing and considering a long-term strategy which is mired in his future elections, but I think we need to listen to House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh on this matter who was recently quoted in the New York Times.
Mr. Haslam is only the latest Republican tailor trying to figure out whether to expand the state’s Medicaid rolls as prescribed by President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. In his case, it involves trying — so far unsuccessfully — to balance some sharply conflicting concerns: struggling hospitals, local business groups, dwindling state resources and fierce conservative opposition to the new health care law.
And it has left him hanging out there, with no resolution in sight, while almost every other state has made a decision, and with many of his impatient constituents wondering how long it is going to take.
“Sometimes you’ve got to make a tough call,” said Craig Fitzhugh, the State House Democratic minority leader, who is pushing for expansion. “It’s time to say yes or no. I don’t want to get morbid or dramatic about this thing, but it’s lives we’re talking about here. It’s human beings.”
I wrote back in March a serious question.
The possibility that hospitals could potentially be sold for pennies on the dollar is what worries me as well as that 300,000 people in Tennessee could have been helped with the expansion. This is all about money. Steve Rossexplained yesterday in a post about the money and Medicaid expansion. If Gov. Bill Haslam is going to discuss market-driven healthcare he might want to read Mr. Ross.
Rural hospitals are suffering and urban hospitals and healthcare are also strained beyond belief. These federal dollars could have helped. So what’s the plan now? That’s all I’m asking.
I ask again in December, what is the plan for people like my family. Ross broke down the numbers of what we as a state could gain. Let us revisit, shall we?
• Between 330,000 and 450,000 additional people would be covered (5% to 7% of the state population)
• An additional $10.5b in direct money to the state in the first five years.
• That money doesn’t get spent and stop. At $2.60 per dollar spent, total impact would reach as high as $27b in the first five years.
• More than 10,000 good paying, skilled jobs.
• We’ll have to educate those 10,000 new workers, increasing our post-high school education numbers and enrollment in institutions of higher learning.
• A huge drop in uncompensated care, saving the state up to $1.6b in the first five years.
• Less uncompensated care means hospitals all over the state will be more economically viable, especially in rural areas where they are struggling.
One of my family members was in a serious car wreck earlier this year. Three Med-Evac helicopters were needed and it took time for them to get to that rural area as people had to be flown to Memphis and Nashville. Think about that for a moment.
Throw out the political grandstanding and remember that real lives are at stake.
As Fitzhugh said, “It’s human beings.”
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