25 Jun Why is a pop-up medical clinic even necessary?
Over the weekend, the Washington Post published a heart-rending description of a pop-up medical clinic in Cleveland, Tenn. — a temporary installation providing free care for two days on a first-come, first-served basis. Hundreds of people showed up many hours before the clinic opened, because rural America is suffering from a severe crisis of health care availability, with hospitals closing and doctors leaving.
Since the focus of the report was on personal experience, not policy, it’s understandable that the article mentioned only in passing the fact that Tennessee is one of the 14 states that still refuse to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. So I’m not sure how many readers grasped the reality that America’s rural health care crisis is largely — not entirely, but largely — a direct result of political decisions.
The simple fact is that the Republicans who run Tennessee and other “non-expansion” states have chosen to inflict misery on many of their constituents, rural residents in particular. And it’s not even about money: The federal government would have paid for Medicaid expansion.
So if rural America is suffering, a large part of the explanation is gratuitous political cruelty. This cruelty has denied health insurance to millions who could have had it with a stroke of the pen. And rural hospitals are closing, rural doctors leaving, in large part because people can’t afford to pay for care.
To see what I mean, just compare Tennessee with its neighbor Kentucky. As recently as 2013, just before the Affordable Care Act went into full effect, the two states looked similar in terms of health care: In both states, about 20% of nonelderly adults lacked insurance. But unlike Tennessee, Kentucky…