It’s amazing how quickly criticizing Obamacare went from “Republican talking point” to “Republican avoid-talking-about-this-if-at-all-possible.”
To highlight just how awkward it has become for Republican politicians to be seen standing in the way of the (now pretty popular) health care law, one conservative mayor in North Carolina plans to march 273 miles to Washington, D.C. to protest his own party’s unwillingness to work with the law.
Mayor Adam O’Neal has watched as his hometown’s hospital had to shutter its doors because North Carolina is one of nearly two dozen states whose mostly-conservative leadership refused to expand Medicaid. The Republicans hoped that purposely preventing Obamacare from working to its fullest would hasten its demise – instead, they are slowly realizing they’ve cut off their nose to spite their face. Residents in these states are beginning to wonder why they are being denied affordable health insurance when neighboring states have no such problems. More troubling still – if you’re a Republican hoping to get elected in November, that is – Obamacare seems to be working, making the doom-and-gloom predictions and subsequent denial to work with it all the more embarrassing.
O’Neal understands all this and, unlike the politicians in Washington, has firsthand experience with the negative effects of political stubbornness. He has now broke ranks with his fellow Republicans and wants the country to know just how absurd it is to oppose Medicaid expansion. He also spoke out against the rampant profiteering done by for-profit medical corporations which put dollars over people’s health. In his town, a company named Vidant Health purchased the only hospital, only to close it down to make a quick buck when they saw that Medicaid wasn’t going to be expanded.
From Talking Points Memo:
“We’ve had our health care stolen,” O’Neal said during a speech in Woodbridge, Va. on Saturday, adding that Vidant makes millions each year even though it’s a non-profit. “It’s immoral for a company to take health care away from people and keep your non-profit designation.”
O’Neal argues that North Carolina’s failure to expand Medicaid hurts hospitals in poor areas because they are missing out on federal reimbursements for providing care for those without insurance.
“We need to stop playing politics with this,” he said. “I’m afraid that my Republican colleagues in North Carolina are going to get killed this fall because of Medicaid expansion. There’s 500,000 people in North Carolina that could have insurance coverage the next 2 years and not cost the state a dime, and the state’s not accepting that. Now, if you’re representing the citizens, how can you not do that?”
You read that right. Half a million low-income people in North Carolina are being systematically denied health insurance because Republican governor Pat McCrory has refused to accept federal funds for Medicaid expansion. It’s no surprise that many voters are beginning to ask why.
It’s fitting that local politicians are the first to begin revolting against the status quo. After all, they are the ones who most closely work with the people who are being directly helped or hurt by the policies of elected officials. In O’Neal’s case, he is doing more than speaking out. After he arrives in Washington on Monday, he is holding a bipartisan rally in front of the Capitol Building to demand politicians do something to fix these problems. If they won’t, at least they’ll have to look someone in the eyes who has actually experienced the results of their political gamesmanship in a very real way.
Watch Mayor O’Neal’s speech delivered on July 26th below: