Charlene Dill was 32 years old. She was a single mother with three children — one preschooler, two in school. She worked three jobs: cleaning houses, babysitting, and selling vacuums. She owned a small trailer and paid property taxes. She earned just $11,000 a year, but she worked hard to make sure her children had what they needed. Her mother and sisters helped care for her children while Charlene worked. She kept her trailer clean, took her children to school, and did the best she could to keep food on the table. But Charlene made one fatal mistake; She moved to Florida when she was 18.
In 2012, Charlene discovered she had a serious heart condition. She went to the ER and was told she needed regular medication and monitoring of her condition. Without health insurance, she couldn’t afford doctor visits, so this wasn’t an option. Charlene was thrilled when President Obama won re-election in 2012 because this meant that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) would be kicking in soon and she could get low-cost or free health insurance. Charlene didn’t realize that Gov. Rick Scott of Florida hated Obama so much that Scott would be willing to see people die rather than have Florida implement Obamacare.
The ACA was written to expand eligibility for Medicaid; states would raise the income limits so more people could benefit. For the first three years, the federal government pays for 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion costs, and 90 percent after that. In other words, millions more people would be covered at little or no cost to the states. These are federal tax dollars that people have paid; they are entitled to get some of that money back. But Obama did not count on the Roberts Supreme Court gutting that provision of the ACA.
The Supreme Court ruled that states could opt out of the Medicaid expansion, even though it was paid for. States could leave income limits as is. In Florida, this means that anyone earning over $5,400 a year is ineligible for Medicaid. Under ACA income limits, a person has to earn $11,400 or more to qualify for subsidies. Anyone earning between $5,400 and $11, 400 cannot get coverage without paying the full premium. Since Charlene earned less than $11,400, she didn’t qualify for any subsidies and couldn’t afford insurance.
In December, Charlene developed abscesses on her legs and went back to the ER, but they couldn’t do very much. She also had severe dental problems. She was still working hard, taking care of her children and doing her best, even with her medical problems. On March 21, Charlene was showing a vacuum cleaner to a customer when she collapsed and died. She was rushed to Poinciana Medical Center, but it was too late. Charlene was 32.
Republicans constantly say that people who need government assistance are “takers.” They claim these people are lazy moochers who don’t care about hard work and family values. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin also refused the Medicaid expansion. On “Fox News Sunday” on Feb. 23, Walker said, “I don’t think the measure of success in government is how many people are dependent on the government.” Well, he should be pleased now. Charlene Dill is no longer dependent on the government.
A total of 23 Republican-controlled states have refused the Medicaid expansion. This leaves about 5 million Americans without access to affordable healthcare. This gap is called the “Red State Donut Hole,” since it’s Republican states doing this. I am happy to say that Nevada’s Gov. Brian Sandoval is not among this group. Because Sandoval accepted the federal money, 78,000 more Nevadans will be covered by Medicaid and the state will save $16 billion. This deal is available to every governor, but too many Republicans are too stubborn to accept it.
When the ACA was written, the authors never imagined that Republican hatred of Obama would be so strong that governors would be willing to let their own people die rather than agree to anything Obama did. It’s estimated that up to 17,000 Americans will die each year as a direct result of this refusal to accept the Medicaid expansion. But hey, that means fewer people dependent on the government. That’ll show Obama!
Charlene Dill is no longer a “taker.” She is no longer dependent on government. She is dead and her three children are orphans. This is the legacy Republicans want to spread ... the party of pro-life and family values. They should be so proud.
Jeanette Strong is an LVN columnist.