With all the wrangling and hoopla in Washington over the debt ceiling and the budget being used as political hostages against the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, one of the things being overlooked is the fact that many of those who cannot afford health insurance and do not qualify for Medicaid are being left out in the cold. You see, part of the Affordable Care Act expanded coverage under Medicaid for lower income people who would still have had trouble paying for private health insurance, even with government subsidies.
While the Supreme Court upheld much of the Affordable Care Act as it was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama, it did rule that states had the option to opt out of the Medicaid expansion – which every state in the Deep South (except for Arkansas) promptly decided to do.
What do every one of these states that decided not to give their residents access to medical care have in common? Take a wild guess. If you said “conservative Republican governors,” you’d be right. So what’s different about Arkansas? Despite having all 4 congressional districts held by Republicans, Arkansas’ governor’s mansion is occupied by a very popular moderate Democratic governor, Mike Beebe. In fact, he is so popular that in 2010 (a year in which far-right Republicans dominated the field), he was re-elected in a landslide over his Republican challenger, Jim Keet.
Let’s be fair — Gov. Beebe didn’t agree to participate in the national model, but he did go with an alternate program that used federal money to purchase private insurance for low income workers. However, other Southern states flat-out refused to do anything for their residents, even though the cost was initially covered by the federal government.
“The law called for the poorest of the uninsured to be covered by expanding Medicaid. Instead of letting the states pick up the tab, the federal government promised to cover all of the cost of the expansion for the first three years and no less than 90 percent in later years.
But last year, when the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law, it also decreed that states couldn’t be mandated to expand Medicaid.
Every state in the Deep South, except for Arkansas, rejected the Medicaid expansion. Like North Carolina and South Carolina, most of those states are led by Republican governors who are philosophically opposed to the Affordable Care Act.
Because so many states rejected the expansion, two-thirds of poor blacks and single mothers and more than half of low-wage workers who are currently uninsured in the United States are left without insurance, according to an analysis by the New York Times. The government has said people who would have been covered by Medicaid in states that aren’t accepting the expansion will not face fines.”
It’s quite obvious that these Southern governors, many of whom represent some of the poorest and unhealthiest states in the country, aren’t actually concerned with the health of their citizens. Instead, like most of the rest of the hard-right GOP politicians, they’d rather sabotage the economy to stop the rollout of the ACA, which they claim will also destroy the economy. If they get their way, they’ll prevent people who need health insurance from being able to get it – and Obama will be blamed. If the GOP doesn’t get what it wants, they’ll tank the economy — and you guessed it, that would be called Obama’s fault as well.
Remember, it’s not about “fiscal responsibility” as these states already take more from the federal government in assistance than they pay in taxes. There’s no “compassionate conservatism” here either. This is nothing more than an attempt by the far right to deny poor people access to affordable healthcare — and blaming Obama while they do it.