To the Editor:
Ordinary citizens of the wealthiest countries around the world are guaranteed access to health care, no matter their family income. In France, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Canada and other developed countries, availability of health care is easier, costs less and yields better health outcomes.
T.R. Reid, author of “The Healing of America,” asked health ministries of these countries as to how many people faced bankruptcy because of health care bills. They couldn’t conjure up the possibility of any such bankruptcies. By contrast, in the U.S., more than 50 percent of personal bankruptcies are caused by health crises and associated insurmountable bills.
Congressional leaders continue to condemn the Affordable Care Act. Republican presidential candidates promise to repeal the law immediately once elected. Meanwhile, back in their states, Republican governors and legislatures are finding ways to accept Medicaid expansion in one form or another.
According to recent New York Times reports, the Republican governors of Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and Ohio have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act or are defending past expansions. GOP governors in South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah intend to create even more generous Medicaid coverage, as do Republican governors in some other states, including Alabama.
These chief executives understand that lives are at stake. They see that rural hospitals are struggling to keep doors open, which leaves sick people without medical services. So they took humane, level-headed action, and so far, 31 states have adopted Medicaid expansion, serving 11.6 million Americans.
The New York Times noted that Ohio Gov. John Kasich, for one, provided health coverage for 600,000 residents by expanding eligibility. When he came under conservative fire, Kasich cited “a moral imperative to help the poor.”
Arizona’s former GOP governor Jan Brewer accepted Medicaid coverage in 2013 for more than 78,000 people. The current governor, Doug Ducey, is requesting further adjustments to the program. Arizona Sen. John McCain commented, “I am very reluctant to take positions that counter the decisions made by the governor.” He continued, “The governor and legislature in my state decided that they wanted” to expand Medicaid.
Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson followed the lead of his Democratic predecessor by continuing to expand Medicaid, while attempting to add some conservative features. Hutchinson said, “I opposed and continue to oppose the Affordable Care Act.” But, he added, “we’re a compassionate state, and we’re not going to leave 220,000 people without some recourse.”
GOP Gov. Matt Mead of Wyoming encouraged his legislators to expand Medicaid for thousands of low-income citizens. “When I came into office in 2011, I joined other states in a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act, and I still don’t like it. But it’s the law of the land. So now I’m trying to be pragmatic, recognizing that we have about 18,000 people who could obtain coverage. We have small hospitals that are struggling. Our federal tax dollars are not headed back to Wyoming but are paying for health care in Colorado, California and other states.”
Mead didn’t let ideology trump common sense.
Why isn’t Maine doing the same?
Gov. Paul LePage five times vetoed majority legislature votes to support expanding Medicaid. He chose, for ideological reasons, to reject hundreds of millions in federal funds annually. By doing so, he denied health insurance – and better health – to about 70,000 Maine residents, including people seeking addiction treatment. His actions mean our hospitals continue to bear the costs of charity care, and addiction treatment options remain limited. Gov. LePage – and those legislators who sustained his vetoes of Medicaid expansion – voted on the wrong side of history.