Red State Republicans Risk H1N1 Pandemic by Blocking “Obamacare” Medicaid Expansion
by Marc Belisle
Everything is bigger in Texas, including the potential for a flu epidemic.
The Affordable Care Act was intended to provide Marketplace coverage for people with middle incomes and a national Medicaid expansion for people at 138% of poverty level (roughly $16,000 per year for an individual) or lower. The Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling, however, made the Medicaid expansion optional for states. Twenty-five states have decided not to expand Medicaid, which has created a coverage gap. Nearly 5 million Americans slip through this crack. These are generally working class people. The vast majority of them live in red Southern states. Roughly 1 million of them live in Texas. For more on this, click here.
At the same time, CBS reports that, in Texas, at least 5 people have recently died of H1N1. Local Houston news puts the recent H1N1 death toll at 13 in the Houston area alone. This is the same strain of swine flu that caused a pandemic in 2009. According to the Los Angeles Times, the CDC estimated that “about 59 million Americans contracted swine flu, 265,000 were hospitalized as a result, and 12,000 died” during that pandemic.
Beyond Texas, this flu is starting to spread across the South. Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi are reporting H1N1 flu “activity.” Incidentally, these are states which are also blocking the ACA Medicaid expansion.
Only four years later, this aggressive virus threatens to sicken, hospitalize and kill thousands of Americans. But today, all Americans should have access to health insurance. Several million of the most economically vulnerable Americans, particularly in the South, don’t have access to health coverage, in spite of the ACA’s ongoing implementation, because red state Republicans are blocking a key provision of the law. Those people are now at great risk of falling victim to an aggressive strain of the flu.
Ultimately, Southern Republicans are threatening not only their own constituents, but the whole country. If their uninsured constituents contract H1N1 because they couldn’t afford a flu shot, and couldn’t afford to go to the hospital until it was too late, they will begin to spread the disease across the country. The state Republicans are risking a national pandemic to score a hollow ideological victory.
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