Republican Death Panels

The poor are usually out of earshot and positioned out of sight in our bunker-like society; in other words, not on our immediate radar. It seems to be “shock and awe” or celebrity gazing. The former is reserved for things like mass killings or overblown pandemics. The latter is daily splashed on all news outlets: check-stand displays of yellow rags, magazine covers, billboards, TV news, and internet ads that overshadow, intercept, and sometimes annoyingly drive out, all your targeted interfaces.

We have been mentally conditioned to treat the less privileged with neglect, to disregard their struggles, even to demonize them. The latter seems to be the job of outlets like Fox News as well as most Republicans pitching the party line.

The truth is that the poor have been progressively forgotten, even shunned, as “the other” in a society becoming progressively harsher toward our deprived brothers and sisters – at least to put it in Christian terms.

As time transpires, we may find that fate could visit us, wagging a skeletal finger.  In our turn, we too may be swamped by misfortune, including the many structures of big money – big banks defrauding us, foreclosures, eminent domain cast-offs, arbitrary layoffs, obscure laws favoring property classes, and bankrupting medical costs – you don’t have to look too far to find them.

Probably the most egregious cases involve actions that bring death, deaths caused by politicians who with malice and forethought deny health care coverage. Many hard-working people (over 66%) who the Affordable Care Act (ACA) fully funds, are being denied medical coverage in twenty-two states where Republicans have a legislative majority. The GOP was enabled by a Supreme Court ruling that makes spite and malice legal. (Actions of all states)

The ACA, derisively called “Obamacare” by Republicans, went into force in 2014. After a Supreme Court ruling, states had the option to open or reject free Medicaid coverage for all adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or just about $27,000 a year for a family of three. Washington would pay the full cost through 2016 and 90 percent from 2020 forward. Even with states paying 10% in 2020 their Emergency Room (ER) savings – the only coverage many of the uninsured have — would be huge.

Of course, a large part of the conservative culture’s vilification of the poor is to justify such spiteful treatment of the vulnerable, perhaps to make Republican actions defensible – for example, to summarily say that the poor – men, women, and children – do not deserve what the law (The ACA) says they deserve.

Perhaps we can be excused for our neglect of the impoverished by saying our culture tends to drive a wedge between classes, especially the middle class and the poor, even while the very rich encircle the rest of us with added security to keep us out of their palatial surroundings. Add to that daily propaganda put out by outlets like Fox News to malign those without resources.

The estimate of early deaths due to denied coverage is around 23,000 per year (table below). Let’s look at a few of the stories of working, lower-middle class people who are suffering now and most likely doomed to early death, something health care coverage could help them avoid.

According to Republican Kansas state senator, Jean Schodorf, Sam Brownback has taken Kansas government down the drain, gutting all public funding, but most especially education and subsequently Medicaid for the poor. Since Medicaid coverage is paid for, one can only guess it is an act of malice.

Kansan, Radonna Kuekelhan, is dying because of Sam Brownback’s stand against an extension of Medicaid. In the late 1990s, in her early 40s, she was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx, but at the time, she had health care from her employer, Emerson Electric. With treatment, she was recovering.

Near the time of her recovery, Emerson Electric shut down and her health care coverage went with it. Severe acid reflex in 2010, a product of radiation which destroyed part of her esophagus, then colon cancer a year later rendered her unable to work at all. Meanwhile, Brownback returned federal money rather than cover Kansas citizens in need. Radonna’s treatments nearly bankrupted her sister and husband, who helped pay for uncovered medical expenses. Now without regular treatment, Radonna is waiting to die.

The Florida legislature and Florida governor Rick Scott also refused to provide Medicaid to nearly 1 million entitled Floridians. About a year ago, Charlene Dill, a 32-year-old mother of three, fell on a stranger’s floor and died. She was trying to sell a vacuum cleaner when she died, one of three jobs she worked in order to financially support her family. Dill died due to a treatable heart condition she could never receive care for because she had no insurance. She would have been covered by Medicaid under the ACA, had Florida provided coverage. In Florida alone, over 4,000 a year die prematurely due to Governor Scott’s decision. Charlene Dill was just one of them.

States Denying Coverage Approx. Percent of Total Denied Estimated Number of People Increased deaths per year Current Governor
Texas 26% 1,040,000 5,907 Greg Abbot
Florida 18% 720,000 4,090 Rick Scott
North Carolina 10% 400,000 2,272 Pat McRory
Georgia 8% 320,000 1,818 Nathan Deal
Lousiana 4% 160,000 909 Bobby Jindall
Indiana 4% 160,000 909 Mike Pence
Missouri 4% 160,000 909 Jay Nixon
Mississippi 4% 160,000 909 Phil Bryant
Oklahoma 3% 120,000 682 Mary Fallin
Kansas 2% 80,000 454 Sam Brownback
Other states 17% 680,000 3,862 various
Totals 100% 4,000,000 22,720
Percent increased deaths 0.57%

As we can see in the table, the estimate of .57% of the number still denied coverage and doomed to early death in 22 states is a very small percentage compared to a Harvard School of Public Health study over a year ago. This study had estimated a 2.9% decrease in deaths due to the 2006 Massachusetts plan, one similar to the ACA. Whatever the number put in jeopardy, we could easily characterize the consequences of Republicans denying health care in 22 states as Death Panels; at the least, some 23,000 each year denied life because of the willful spite of Republican leaders, a spite with deadly consequences for their poorest citizens.

James Hoover is a recently retired systems engineer. He has advanced degrees in Economics and English. Prior to his aerospace career, he taught high school, and he has also taught college courses. He recently published a science fiction novel called Extraordinary Visitors and writes political columns on several websites. Read other articles by James.