Pam Renshaw had just crashed her four-wheeler into a bonfire in rural Folkston, Georgia, and her skin was getting seared in the flames. Her boyfriend, Billy Chavis, pulled her away and struggled to dial 911 before driving her to the nearest place he could think of for medical attention: an ambulance station more than 20 miles away.
The local public hospital, 9 miles from the crash, had closed six weeks earlier because of budget shortfalls resulting from Obamacare and Georgia’s decision not to expand Medicaid. The ambulances Chavis sought were taking other patients to the next closest hospital. It took two hours before Renshaw, in pain from second- and third-degree burns on almost half her body, was flown to a hospital in Florida.
So began a Nov. 25 article by Toluse Olorunnia on Bloomberg News. I read the article that day and have thought about it off-and-on since then. The article goes on to report that several public hospitals closed this year and that many more, public and private, including the world-reknowned Cleveland Clinic, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Indiana University Health, are “seeking cost savings in areas such as cancer treatment, mental health and infant care.” Nationwide, hospitals have reduced their staffs by at least 5,000 since June.
And as it turns out, although the Bloomberg article did not mention it, some hospitals are reducing their primary-care physician residency positions significantly, including a reduction of 50 such residency positions in the northeastern Tennessee congressional district of Rep. Phil Roe, who himself is a physician. He also is a Republican. “It is basically because the law has cut reimbursements for hospitals,” Roe told Politico staffers Seung Min Kim and Jennifer Haberkorn, as they report in a Dec. 3 article titled “New Obamacare weapon for GOP: Doctors”. “They have to find savings somewhere,” Roe said.
The Bloomberg article is titled “Obamacare Cutbacks Shut Hospitals Where Medicaid Went Unexpanded.” Most of the hospitals in question have large numbers of uninsured patients. And nearly all of the hospitals are in states whose Republican governors and legislatures have refused to adopt the expanded Medicaid provision in the ACA and are opting instead to see hospitals close or drastically reduce services, resident-physician positions and other staff positions that until now had been paid for by, um, the federal government’s Medicaid funding. The ACA switches that funding from the current Medicaid program to the expanded Medicaid program that Republican governors and Republican-controlled state legislatures have refused.
I’m sort of waiting for the Dems to, maybe, point out this interesting irony whenever a Republican claims that Obamacare is prohibiting hospitals from from continuing to fund what in fact the federal government, via that Republican doormat Medicaid, actually was funding. Not Obama himself, of course, because it would require him to actually explain something that he probably thinks is complicated; other Dems, though. Maybe soon?
Then again, it looks like another Republican congressman, Texas Rep. Michael Burgess, who also is a physician, has hit upon the solution at least to one problem: the shortage of primary-care physicians. “Many families are now learning that they may not just lose their plan,” he said recently. “But if they like their doctor, they may lose their doctor, too. They may lose their doctor in part because there is already a shortage of primary-care physicians. Many of these plans will now be paying doctors less — so many doctors, whose waiting rooms are already full, have chosen not to participate in the new plans.”
Yep. Eliminating doctors who accept healthcare insurance should take care of that crowded-waiting-room problem. The doctors who have chosen not to participate in the new plans probably will have available chairs in their waiting rooms, without even moving to larger office space. And they’ll have available appointment slots, without expanding their workweek.
As a pyrophobic since the age of eight, when I met a lovely elderly gentleman, a neighbor of my best friend, who was a severe-burns victim, I dearly wish Ms. Renshaw well. But the additional agony she endured because of the recent closure of the only hospital within ambulance distance was neither the fault of Obamacare nor of the federal government that wingnuts rail about. The recently-closed hospital and others like it throughout the rural South and Plains states would have been closed decades ago, were it not for the federal government, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Democratic congressional majorities … and Medicaid.
Because of the seriousness of this matter, I won’t try to put a pithy ending to this post. I’ll just say that the current crop of Republican politicians, national and state-level, are death panelists–and that it’s past time for the mainstream media, Democratic elected officials, and, yes, Obama himself, to explain that to the public. Each time that a Koch puppet-as-pol, or some columnist for the Washington Post, tells the public that hospital closures and a reduction in physicians and in hospital staff and services is the result of Obamacare, the Dems–including those who are running against Republican incumbents–need to point to, say, Kentucky, which with the exception of the small border it shares with Illinois is completely surrounded by Medicaid-expansion refuseniks. As in, “Soooo, Rep. Roe. Seems your state is really missin’ the ole Medicaid assistance that kept your hospitals open, fully staffed, and in the black. What’s the problem there? I mean, in that state just north of your border the hospitals seem to be doin’ just fine under the new system.” A nice ad campaign, with the name of the respective Republican officeholder in each state legislative and congressional district, can’t be all that expensive, can it?