Save Lives. Demand the Expansion of Medicaid

Robert Borosage

Partisan politics can cost lives. Partisan passions blind petty politicians to the human costs of their actions. Today, 24 state legislators and governors have refused to expand Medicaid to cover poor working people in their state – even though the Federal government will pick up the entire bill for the first two years.

Charlene Dill, a Florida resident, was a 32-year-old mother of three. She worked three jobs to support those children, despite having a serious heart condition. The money she earned – $11,000 a year – was too much to be eligible for Florida’s Medicaid.

She would have been covered by expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. But the Republican governor and Republican-dominated legislature enlisted in the Republican assault on Obamacare, seeking its repeal. They joined 23 other states in refusing to take the federal resources to cover more of their low-wage workers.

Some argued simply against Obamacare, as if it were the act of a devil, rather than a health-care reform based primarily on what had been conservative Republican ideas. Some argued that the state would have to pick up 10 percent of the program after a couple of years and couldn’t afford that share.

But any decent governor, given two years of a fully paid expansion, could surely find ways to lower costs within the program to sustain the full coverage without budget strain.

No, the decision wasn’t thoughtful or particularly rational. It was a partisan ploy that costs lives. So Charlene Dill could not afford the treatment that she needed and that her hard work should surely have earned her. She died from a heart condition, but it wasn’t her heart. She died from the hard hearts of partisan legislators blinded by partisan passions.

Today, as part of nurses week, the Campaign for America’s Future will join with the Service Employees International Union and many other organizations to drive a petition calling on the governors of 24 states to put aside petty politics, and expand Medicaid to cover poor workers who are not impoverished enough to qualify under current plans. We want to enlist millions calling on their own governors and legislators to put aside partisan politics and start saving lives. Join us; sign the petition here.

An estimated 8 million Americans will remain without insurance because of the decisions in these 24 states. A Harvard study predicts that this will result in 7,000 deaths per year, or 19 a day. Charlene Dill with not be the only casualty to this folly.

We’ve learned of the scorn that Republicans have for the 47 percent of Americans – the 47 percent of low-wage earners who pay payroll taxes and sales taxes and property taxes – but earn too little to pay income taxes. Now we learn of Republican scorn for low-wage workers who earn too much for Medicaid, but not enough to afford health care insurance.

These are workers who take the early bus. They do the hard jobs others don’t want. They clean the streets. They mop the hospital floors and clean out the bed pans. They care for the babies while mothers work. They work in shops at minimum wages.

They now could be covered by Medicaid. They could get an annual doctor’s checkup. They could get treatment for illnesses. What could become serious problems can be treated early, when it costs so much less to do so.

Sign the petition. Add your voice to Americans calling on the politicians to put people first, to open their hearts, not close their ideological blinders.

It is disgraceful that in this rich country, millions remain without health insurance. It is simply inconceivable that low-wage workers are being denied coverage for no reason other than political posturing.

This failure to act costs lives. There is no excuse. Honor the nurses by reflecting their care for the afflicted. Please join our petition and add your voice to Americans calling these governors and legislators back to their senses.

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