Originally published in Tikkun Daily
Thanks to the tag-team efforts of the GOP and the Supreme Court, millions of Americans are learning that they are technically "too poor" for Obamacare. And the personal tragedies resulting from this fact are too painful to bear as destitute, sick and dying citizens are being turned away with these words, "We can't help you."
How is this possible, considering that one of the principle goals of the Affordable Care Act was to provide health care to those unable to afford it? The two-pronged answer is as simple as it is maddening:
1) The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that states could opt out of expanding Medicaid coverage "to anyone making less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,300 a year for a single person."This has left nearly 5 million Americans caught in a cruel gap in which they are too poor to qualify for health coverage. This includes homeless Marine veteran Marc Alphonse:
2) 24 states with Republican governors have chosen to opt out, including Florida.
Three years ago, Alphonse learned he has a kidney disorder that will deteriorate into kidney failure, and possibly prove fatal, if left untreated. As it stands now, he suffers from bouts of nausea caused by his dysfunctional kidneys, and he's dogged by an old knee injury that limits his job prospects. He gets by on $400 a month in unemployment benefits, and his family can no longer afford housing in their home city of Miami. Alphonse's 28-year-old wife, Danielle, and three young children are staying with relatives while Alphonse couch surfs.Alphonse, who lives in Florida, cannot qualify for health coverage due to Republican Governor Rick Scott's decision to refuse billions of dollars from the federal government to expand Medicaid coverage. Money which would have given Alphonse access to top-flight care.
Instead, this military veteran must struggle to receive stop-gap care in emergency settings – care that the taxpayers of Florida must themselves cover. And it's not comprehensive coverage, the type of care that could save Alphonse's life.
And there are now countless people like Alphonse, caught in a coverage gap created by the Republican Party. Witness the experience of an Obamacare enrollment specialist:
At Miami's Borinquen Medical Centers for low-income and uninsured patients, Jason Connor sees hopes crushed as people who thought Obamacare could help them at long last learn otherwise.This is the Republican Party's work, whose elected leaders are only too happy to subsidize and offer tax breaks to America's wealthiest individuals while refusing to subsidize the poorest among us.
"We've had people break down in tears at our desk," said Connor, who is under contract with the community health centers to do Affordable Care Act outreach and enrollment activities through his company, Choice Returns.
For Republicans, a billionaire venture capitalist deserves government assistance. A dying military veteran?
He deserves nothing.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.
Note: the title for this piece came from a Jeffrey Young Tweet.