Is this really the future of healthcare in America?
The Press25 Jul 2017NICK ALLEN
People wait to receive medical and dental care at the Remote Area Medical Clinic in Wise, Virginia.
“This organisation was designed to parachute into the most God-awful places. I expected to see stuff like this in South Sudan and Haiti, but it’s right here in the United States of America.” Stan Brock, Remote Area Medical
As Republican politicians in Washington bickered over the fate of ObamaCare, hundreds of desperate people queued outside a county fairground 650km away over the weekend in the hope of receiving basic medical treatment. Teeth rotting, blood pressure soaring, some on crutches or with oxygen tanks, they limped in through the darkness. Some had camped in a field or slept in their cars to be first in line.
This massive free healthcare event, staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses, treated thousands of people over the weekend. Inside a barn, animal stalls were transformed into makeshift medical facilities. A team of optometrists tested for glaucoma in the chicken house. Mammograms and skin examinations took place in articulated lorries.
‘‘I just wish I could get President Trump to come and see this,’’ said Stan Brock, a British philanthropist and founder of Remote Area Medical, the charity behind it. ‘‘The people here are Mr Trump’s constituency, they’re his voters, and it drives me up the wall. If he saw what was happening I’m sure he’d do something about it. Unfortunately I can’t contact him because I don’t tweet.’’ Brock, 80, added: ‘‘This organisation was designed to parachute into the most God-awful places. I expected to see stuff like this in South Sudan and Haiti, but it’s right here in the United States of America.’’
Last week the Republican bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare, a cornerstone pledge of Trump’s campaign, failed in the US Senate.
ObamaCare, the signature domestic policy legacy of his predecessor, led to 20 million more Americans getting health insurance. Repealing it became a cause celebre for Republicans who regard it as costly government overreach, and an unworkable system.
The Senate bill would not only dismantle ObamaCare, it would introduce swingeing US$800 billion cuts over the next decade to Medicaid, the social security healthcare subsidy programme for the unemployed.
As the unfortunate hobbled into the Wise fairground the headline on a morning paper screamed ‘‘32 million more to be uninsured under Republican plan’’. National polls also show ObamaCare is more popular than ever, with a majority of Americans in favour of it for the first time.
But, extraordinarily, many of those in direst need, and who could suffer most under the Trump-backed Senate bill, are still squarely behind the president. The Telegraph interviewed half a dozen Trump voters receiving healthcare at the fairground. Every one said ObamaCare should be repealed, and that they believed Trump would introduce something better.
Their reasons varied. Some had gained coverage under ObamaCare but were unable to meet the rising cost of monthly premiums. Others said they knew little of the detail of the Senate bill, simply pledging faith in Trump.
‘‘I love Trump,’’ said Margaret Harris, 54, shaking her head as she was told Trump backed massive cuts in healthcare spending. She added: ‘‘ObamaCare don’t pay for false teeth and glasses and I blame the Democrats. I’m diabetic and I can’t hardly see you. I need glasses but I ain’t got $400 to pay for them. I know Trump will get it done for us.’’ Similarly, Robert Hicks, 75, a former truck driver who has no insurance, added: ‘‘That’s not Trump, it’s the people in Congress.’’ Hicks, who was having five rotten teeth pulled from his mouth, added: ‘‘I know he’s trying to help us and I’m still with him. We need to vote out the people in Congress who aren’t helping him.’’
Terry Turner, 53, who suffered a broken neck in a factory accident, had much of his care covered by Medicaid, but seemed unconcerned at Trump-backed cuts to the programme.
‘‘I’m all in for Trump, he’s got a good heart,’’ he said, and added that there were ‘‘able-bodied people out there that won’t get out of bed’’ who were abusing Medicaid, who Trump would root out.
Buddy Howington, 48, who was having teeth pulled. His ObamaCare premiums rose to US$2500 a year, and he only earned US$7.25 an hour part-time in a supermarket, so he abandoned coverage. ‘‘Then they fined me $300 for not paying,’’ he said. ‘‘I couldn’t afford to pay for ObamaCare so they fine me. Makes no sense. I don’t know what’s going on in Washington but I think Trump will help eventually.’’ – Telegraph Group