Monday, March 24, 2014

Some Things Rarely Ever Change

Even as we took a week away to be with family, friends, and just generally relax, the world didn't stop turning. You could be forgiven thinking it had come to a stop, though, as all the so-called "news" channels on cable appeared to be stuck in the same loop for a week, repeating that they still don't know where the lost Malaysia Airlines plane is.

Some things in other news changed slightly last week. Vladimir Putin and Russia pushed forward and illegally annexed Crimea. Now, the Russians and Ukrainians are holding in a tense standoff over Eastern Ukraine, even as sanctions from the U.S. and Europe begin to really hurt Russia's economy.

Back in the U.S., most things didn't change. The spring weather was volatile. Congress did almost nothing. Democrats are still worried about the 2014 elections, but left-leaning Americans aren't actually doing much to change that. Meanwhile, the right-wing extremist and extremely wealthy Koch Brothers are still continuing to try and buy the 2014 elections, and politics in general - including the upcoming  decision over the Keystone Pipeline. Republicans all over the country are still proving they're misogynists, and racists, and - like Nebraska Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Shane Osborne - still unable to tell the whole truth.

Unfortunately, over the break, one important thing did change. Republicans in Nebraska's legislature, led like a dog on a leash by right-wing, Koch Brothers-funded groups like AFP, defeated the most recent effort to expand Medicaid to Nebraska's poorest citizens.

In short, the outside groups choked off an effort to help their fellow Nebraskans led by Nebraska Republican state Senator Kathy Campbell - and now Nebraskans will have to deal with the effects of that poorly made, outside-influenced decision.

Rural Nebraskans only have to look to rural Georgia to get a glimpse of what the future of local health care looks like when you prevent hospitals from getting paid to do their duties.

For the fourth time in two years, yet another rural Georgia hospital is closing, this time the Lower Oconee Community Hospital in Wheeler County. It's the eighth rural hospital in the Peachtree State to close since 2000. As many who understand how Medicaid expansion under the ACA warned, without helping the poorest Americans to get insurance coverage, hospitals in rural areas inundated with poor patients simply can't keep their doors open.

As Steve Benen noted last week, the real-world effects of such partisan obstinacy aren’t pretty - but they are pretty stupid.

Decisions like those in Georgia & Nebraska fly in the face of the facts on health policy, in the era of the ACA. As health policy wonks like Robert Reich & Rick Ungar showed last week, the numbers about Obamacare are coming out now - and they look very favorable for both Americans and the politicians who've supported the ACA. While Republicans and scaremongers should be eating crow in the media, it's doubtful the cable "news" media will ever force them to honestly account for their lies on the issue.

Meanwhile, millions of poor, often rural Americans - including the 54,000 Nebraskans too poor to afford health insurance - are looking at a health care landscape that increasingly looks more like that in a third-world nation.

It shouldn't take an outbreak of ebola - like that going on in West Africa right now - to prove to rural voters that a third-world standard of health care isn't something to be emulated. It will likely cost a few more lives though, needlessly lost due to a lack of proper health care, for poor rural voters in places like Nebraska and Georgia to finally realize that voting for politicians who are the lap dogs of wealthy outside influences might not be in their best interests.