Governor should expand Medicare

Feb. 22, 2014 @ 11:30 PM

Editor,

The expansion of Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act is designed to provide coverage to those people in the gap between being poor enough to qualify for Medicaid and too poor to qualify for a subsidy available to buy private insurance on the health exchanges.

This state’s governor and 24 others have refused this program leaving eight million people uninsured and up to 17,000 pre-mature and avoidable deaths. This is according to a recent study conducted by Harvard University and the City University of New York.

The study warns of a big economic impact for those states because many low income women will forego recommended breast and cervical cancer screenings, diabetics will forego medications and all low income adults will face a greater likelihood of depression, catastrophic medical expenses and death.

States in close proximity to this state — Kentucky, Arkansas, W. Virginia, Virginia and Ohio — have their governors’ approval for Medicaid expansion. W. Virginia is reporting a 33 percent reduction in the rate of uninsured. In Kentucky, the Kentucky Hospital Association has said expansion has helped cover the cost of uncompensated care and a poll by the University of Cincinnati shows 79 percent of Kentucky adults, including 90 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Republicans, back the Medicaid expansion which covers approximately 308,000 additional residents.

The state of Ohio has enrolled 17,000 people as of this January, with an additional half million expected to enroll by the middle of 2015. Virginia’s newly elected governor has vowed to expand Medicaid despite Republican resistance.

On Saturday, Feb. 1 and Sunday, Feb. 2, Remote Area Medical (RAM), a free roaming health clinic, provided services to hundreds at Chilhowee Park in Knoxville. This organization does outstanding work and its volunteers deserve high praise. Many waited in the cold through the night to receive screenings and checkups. Although it is uncertain how many of these people would benefit from Medicaid expansion, certainly a significant number would.

Gloria Johnson, a teacher and state lawmaker from Knoxville, was there and posted these remarks on her Facebook page — “State of the state, seriously? Come down to Chilhowee Park in Knoxville and I will show you the state of the state,” “I appreciate RAM but if our governor would expand Medicaid we would not have to have people lined up for miles at midnight to see a doctor,” “I just met three great ladies from Halls who are waitresses and make $2.25 an hour and have no health care, so they have to get in line in freezing weather to wait all night for care” and finally “I’m not cut out for this, I choke up at every story.”

If a decision made has been proven to unnecessarily cause suffering and possibly death, then surely that decision would be changed — well, governor, it’s time.

Bill Dayton

Sevierville