Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Expanding Medicaid is to Choose Life

By Roy Herron
Special to The Commercial Appeal
At 13, I found my father on the floor. He’d had a heart attack.
What passed for an ambulance back then in rural Tennessee rushed him to the hospital.
The doctor told Mother if Dad had gotten to the hospital 10 minutes later, the doctor could not
have saved him.
If the hospital had not been there, the doctor could not have saved him.
Now that hospital — like many others — is at risk. More than 50 hospitals in Tennessee are struggling financially, and we are told that some will close.
And when hospitals close, other children’s fathers and other loved ones will die.
Why is this happening? Because the Republican officeholders controlling this state have refused to cash a federal check.
Tennessee could extend health insurance coverage to as many as 330,000 people in working families, if state officials accept the federal funds that would pay 100 percent of the costs of expanding the state’s Medicaid program for the first three years.
And if, but only if, we wanted to continue the expansion beyond three years, Tennessee would not have to pay more than 10 cents on the dollar. Hospitals providing millions of dollars in uncompensated care to uninsured patients could be paid for their services, and stay open.
But so far, Tennessee’s Republican governor and Republican legislators have refused to accept $1 billion a year of federal funding to cover 330,000 working poor. This is money that hospitals, doctors and nurses need to serve patients in rural areas and even in urban centers such as Nashville, where at least one major hospital is now releasing hundreds of employees.
The New England Journal of Medicine last year published research dealing with “Mortality and Access to Care” that documents how access to health care saves lives. The study, conducted by researchers from Harvard’s School of Public Health, analyzed data from states that did and states that did not expand their Medicaid programs to cover low-income adults without children or disabilities.
The researchers found that when more people have access to health care, more people live — “particularly those between the ages of 35 and 64 years, minorities, and those living in poorer
In fact, they found that for every 500,000 adults included in state Medicaid programs, deaths declined by 6.1 percent. In other words, Medicaid expansion for 500,000 saved about 2,840 lives per year.
In the words of the study: “This finding suggests that 176 additional adults would need to be covered by Medicaid in order to prevent one death per year.”
Officials say 180,000 more Tennesseans could receive Medicaid coverage next year if the state accepts the federal funding. If they are not served, according to the Harvard study, more than 1,000 could die.
Deuteronomy 30:19 recounts Moses proclaiming God’s Word: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life that you and your children may live.”
None of our neighbors and loved ones should have to die because politicians rejected Deuteronomy 30 and the Golden Rule.
Any Republicans denying Tennesseans lifesaving health care ought never again call themselves “pro-life,” not if they condemn thousands of uninsured Tennesseans to die.
Fortunately, there is still time to choose life. Pray that they will.

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