A 32-Year-Old Woman Is Dead Because Of Political Games
In too many states, Republican lawmakers are refusing to provide health coverage to millions of Americans through the Medicaid program simply because of politics. These political games have real consequences.
The debate over whether to accept or not accept federal funding to provide health insurance often deals with a lot of charts and numbers. But today, sadly, this debate has a name: Charlene Dill. Dill, a 32-year-old working mom with three small children, died recently because she didn’t have access to the care she needed. She worked three part-time jobs to stay afloat, earning an estimated $9,000 per year. Because this was more than the $6,809 limit to qualify for Medicaid in Florida, she fell into the coverage gap.
Reporter Billy Manes at the Orlando Weekly tells the story:
Dill’s death was not unpredictable, nor was it unpreventable. She had a documented heart condition for which she took medication. But she also happened to be one of the people who fall within the gap created by the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to opt out of Medicaid expansion, which was a key part of the Affordable Care Act’s intention to make health care available to everyone. In the ensuing two years, 23 states have refused to expand Medicaid, including Florida, which rejected $51 billion from the federal government over the period of a decade to overhaul its Medicaid program to include people like Dill and [her best friend Kathleen Voss] Woolrich – people who work, but do not make enough money to qualify for the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies. They, like many, are victims of a political war – one that puts the lives and health of up to 17,000 U.S. residents and 2,000 Floridians annually in jeopardy, all in the name of rebelling against President Barack Obama’s health care plan.
Indeed, Charlene Dill will not be the only one who dies because she lacked access to care due to the coverage gap. A recent study found that up to 2,200 Floridians — and 17,000 Americans overall — will die directly as a result of their states refusing to accept the federal funding to expand health care for their residents. The study also estimates that nationwide, individuals with “catastrophic medical expenditures” as a result of being in the coverage gap will number around 240,000 people.
If Florida did accept the nearly $5.2 billion in federal funding to expand health care, it has been projected to increase economic activity by $8.9 billion through 2016 and create approximately 71,300 new jobs in the state.
Kathleen Voss Woolrich, Dill’s best friend who had turned to crowdfunding websites to raise money to pay for Dill’s heart medication and then, tragically, to pay for her friend’s funeral, wrote:
You see the main argument Republicans use is that it’s some lazy person who needs Medicaid expansion. That those of us living without healthcare or dental care are lazy. But my friend, a single beautiful mother, worked three jobs. I am burying my best friend because of the policies of the Republican Party. I am burying my best friend because had Medicaid expanded, her needs would have been met.
BOTTOM LINE: Conservative legislators who have continued to refuse federal funding to expand health care for their citizens must realize that political decisions have real consequences. A 32-year-old woman who could not afford her heart medication because she fell into the medicaid coverage gap is now dead. It’s time we put an end to avoidable — but now permanent — consequences like this one.