Even as Democrats celebrate and Republicans pick up their jaws in response to last week’s revelation that the Affordable Care Act is surpassing expectations, picking up seven million enrollees as of March 31, there remains a cold reality in the fine print that’s playing politics with the lives of millions. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could opt out of expanding their Medicaid programs, thereby allowing conservatives to continue their bootstraps mantra in the face of the kind of poverty most of them have never known, a pronounced gap in health care coverage was created. The working poor would not be covered, and, more shockingly, up to 17,000 people nationally and 2,000 people in the state of Florida could die annually as a result.
Central Floridian Charlene Dill died on March 21. She was the mother of three, estranged from her husband, booted off Medicaid nonetheless because she couldn’t afford a divorce. Dill suffered from a heart condition throughout her three pregnancies, had crowdsourced medications to get her by as recently as last fall, and died while trying to sell a vacuum cleaner in a stranger’s house – that was her third job. Even her funeral was funded with a go-fund-me website. The tragedy could easily have been avoided had the Florida legislature seen beyond its idiot base and accepted the $51 billion offered by the federal government to expand Medicaid. If that had happened, Dill could now be celebrating control of her own healthcare and enjoying life with her family, however hard the struggle. This isn’t about bootstraps, it’s about abandonment.