This column by Dan Milbank was written based on a 45 minute interview with Mayor Adam O'Neal near the US Capitol Building, moments after the rally that capped off O'Neal's 273-mile walk from Belhaven, NC. It spells out pretty clearly why policies must change at the local and the national level if America is to continue to be a "first world country" when it comes to the accessibility of emergency health care. This paragraph, about the tragic death of 48-year-old Portia Gibbs just after Belhaven's hospital was closed, sums it up.
Studies have forecast that states’ refusal to expand Medicaid will mean thousands of preventable deaths each year, and the victims aren’t just the poor. O’Neal said Portia Gibbs had health insurance — but it didn’t do her any good without a hospital.
Milbank goes on to write:
Southerner and a Republican officeholder who has conservative views on abortion, taxes, guns — “you name it,” he told me. But ideology and party loyalty have limits. “I’m a pretty conservative guy, but this is a matter of people dying,” he said.
Republicans nationwide have abandoned any consideration of offering an alternative to the Affordable Care Act, figuring that their complaints about President Obama’s selective implementation of the law, and lingering unease about the legislation itself, will be enough to motivate conservative voters in November. But as O’Neal points out, this political calculation has a moral flaw.
“If the governor and the legislature don’t want to accept Medicaid expansion, they need to come up with another program to assure that rural hospitals don’t close,” the 45-year-old mayor said. Otherwise, he continued, “they’re allowing people to die to prove a point. That is wrong, and I’m not going to be a party to that.”
O’Neal is no fan of Obamacare, but during his journey, he sent a letter to Obama asking for a meeting. “I am a conservative Republican and I understand some of the suspicions political leaders in my party have,” he wrote. “But those concerns do not trump the need to maintain health services in struggling communities. Rural citizens dying should not be soldiers of the South’s defiance to the new health care law.”