Republicans are literally forcing hospitals to close down.
The facility has been struggling with its finances for years, but things got really bad over the past few months and the hospital had to lay off almost 100 of its employees.
According to Lower Oconee CEO Karen O’Neal, the hospital’s problems were the result of strained resources.
And the reason why, of course, is that Republicans have refused to take Medicaid money that goes to hospitals to pay for uninsured people.
Back during the Reagan administration a law was passed that said that hospitals had to accept patients in emergency rooms regardless of their ability to pay.
This creates an enormous expense for hospitals where there are a lot of uninsured people.
One in four Wheeler County residents do not have health insurance, one in ten are unemployed, and about 40 percent of its children live in poverty.
The only problem is, Georgia Republicans have done everything they can to make sure that Obamacare won’t help the people who live there.
That’s because like Republican lawmakers in 25 other states across the country, Georgia Republicans have blocked Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
The idea behind Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is pretty simple.
States that accept the expansion allow people earning as much as 133 percent of the poverty line to enroll in Medicaid.
In exchange, the federal government pays 100 percent of the cost of their healthcare for three years and 90 – let me repeat – 90 percent of that cost every year after that.
For struggling rural healthcare providers like Lower Oconee Hospital, Medicaid expansion can mean the difference between staying open and shutting down.
As The Albany Heraldrecently pointed out in an article about Lower Oconee’s closing, “[Medicaid expansion] helps rural hospitals by turning many of their uninsured patients into paying patients.”
Unfortunately, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and other Peach State Republicans have decided that it’s more important to sabotage President Obama’s signature achievement than it is to help the people that put them into office.
Thanks to their refusal to expand Medicaid, as many as fifteen other Georgia hospitals may shut their doors in coming months.
But it’s not just Georgia hospitals that are struggling to stay afloat without access to expanded Medicaid funds.
According to the Tennessee Justice Center, “Almost half of the 61 rural hospitals in [Tennessee] may face ‘major cuts or closure’ without Medicaid expansion.”
When hospitals close down, people have to find a new way to see the doctor.
For people who live in rural areas, this often means having to drive tens of miles away to get to the nearest hospital.
Of course, hospital closures don’t just hurt patients – they hurt hospital workers themselves.
According to some estimates, struggling hospitals have laid off almost 5,000 people since June, mostly in Republican states that have refused to expand Medicaid.
Whatever way you look at it, the Republican refusal to expand Medicaid is a disaster.
It’s a disaster for healthcare providers, it’s a disaster for hospitals, and it’s a disaster for working people who just want to get access to affordable health insurance.
Republicans made a huge stink back in October when it was revealed that Obamacare would force a tiny minority of Americans to change their healthcare plans.
So – now that their sabotage efforts are literally forcing Americans to lose their hospitals – will they come around to support Medicaid expansion?