A Republican mayor in North Carolina is warning that the GOP will “get killed” in the fall midterms for their failure to expand Medicaid. Adam O’Neal, who is the mayor of Bellhaven, N.C., blames the GOP in part for a hospital closing in his town, due to the state’s refusing to expand Medicaid. He’s so upset about it that he’s walking to Washington, D.C., to draw attention to what’s happening in his home state.
The Raw Story reports that the hospital was closed after Vidant Health bought it in 2011. O’Neal said that it’s quite common for a big health group to purchase small hospitals and then close them. Vidant earned over $100 million in 2012, and yet, they’re supposedly a non-profit organization. They also have $500 million in their reserve coffers. With that kind of money, they don’t need to close hospitals they buy. However, if North Carolina had expanded Medicaid, then the county may not have sold the hospital to begin with, because they’d have had the funding to keep it open themselves. O’Neal gave a speech in Woodbridge, Virginia, where he said:
“We’ve had our health care stolen. It’s immoral for a company to take health care away from people and keep your non-profit designation.”
He described how a woman died because there wasn’t a hospital close enough for her when she had a heart attack. Pungo District Hospital was 30 minutes from where this woman lived, and she might have been saved if it hadn’t been closed. He also mentioned how North Carolina’s governor won’t meet with him or his group. So people are dying unnecessarily, either directly or indirectly because the state won’t expand Medicaid.
O’Neal went on to say:
“We need to stop playing politics with it. This is an issue that needs to come before politics. […] I’m afraid that my Republican colleagues in North Carolina are going to get killed this fall because of Medicaid expansion. There’s 500,000 people in North Carolina that could have insurance coverage the next two years and not cost the state a dime, and the state’s not accepting that. Now, if you’re representing the citizens, how can you not do that?”
He’s right; Medicaid expansion is a hot button in many red states, including North Carolina and Virginia. These states’ Republicans basically have refused to expand Medicaid simply to make a point about both the Affordable Care Act and the deficit. The “we can’t afford it” argument doesn’t hold water, since the federal government is giving states the funding to expand Medicaid (and some red states voted for expansion because they think it’s stupid to refuse $2 billion in federal dollars). They don’t want to do anything that helps the ACA succeed.
As far as the deficit goes, North Carolina gave tax breaks to the wealthy, and is busy watching the results of those cuts grow out of control. Republicans in Congress blithely claim that tax cuts have traditionally never been offset with spending cuts, so those add to the deficit with nary a peep about fiscal responsibility. However, all spending must be offset by spending cuts, or the GOP screams about fiscal irresponsibility.
Mayor O’Neal and other Republicans who are breaking from their ridiculous Tea Party wing in favor of expanding Medicaid have a real interest in helping their people. To allow hospitals to close and people to die just to make a couple of political points is heartless, immoral, and just plain wrong. We hope that O’Neal and his compatriots are successful in making their point with their march, with both Congress, and with voters in November.
Watch O’Neal’s entire speech here: