Commentary

Senate budget writers to their “Trump country” constituents: “Drop dead”

Senator Phil Berger

In case you missed it, there was new confirmation this week that the people being disproportionately harmed by the refusal of North Carolina Republican senators to include Medicaid expansion in the budget bill they plan to adopt today are — wait for it — their own constituents.

It’s been common knowledge for a long time that lower-income rural communities are among the areas that suffer most from having high rates of uninsured residents, but a recent news story from our neighboring state of Virginia really brings this fact home.

This is from a Tuesday story in the Virginia Mercury entitled Trump Country sees majority of new enrollees under Va.’s Medicaid expansion”:

“A majority of the roughly 280,000 people who now have health care under Virginia’s expansion of Medicaid live in localities won by President Donald Trump, who campaigned on eliminating federal funding for expansion by repealing the Affordable Care Act.

In 60 cities and counties, more than five percent of the population has gained health coverage under the expanded program, which began enrolling new patients in November. Trump won a majority of the votes in all but 18 of those localities, according to enrollment figures provided by the state, population estimates and election results….

‘There’s this image of Medicaid as a program that is primarily of benefit to the inner cities, but the reality in Virginia and many other places is that large numbers of people living in rural communities lack health care,’ said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington. ‘Medicaid expansion is extraordinarily beneficial for people living in those counties that supported Trump.’”

In other words, when Senator Phil Berger refuses to expand Medicaid to cover hundreds of thousands of struggling and hardworking men and women based on the maddening and offensive claim that it will somehow discourage them from working, the people he’s harming and, in many instances, sentencing to unnecessarily early deaths, are, by and large, the very people whose votes put him in office.

(What’s more, and as a two-part aside: A – Most of the people in question are already working and can’t get or afford insurance now. How in the world would having insurance encourage them to quit their jobs? They still need money to live on. And B – Who appointed Berger the morality police chief with the right to decide who is and isn’t worthy of having health insurance, anyway?)

The bottom line: At some point, rural conservative North Carolinians are going to wake up to the way they’re being played for suckers by their elected representatives. Let’s hope their neighbors to the north help to expedite that process.

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