The Anniston Star on being caught up in the crossfire of health care law opposition:
Todd Gardenhire and Luis Lang aren’t household names, but their recent experiences with health care speak loud and clear about Obamacare and how it’s perceived by some Americans.
Gardenhire is a Tennessee state senator from Chattanooga. This year, he joined his Republican colleagues on the Senate Health and Welfare Committee to kill a proposal to expand Medicaid coverage to 280,000 working Tennessee residents who can’t afford health insurance.
When a proponent of the expansion pointed out that “virtually every member of the Tennessee General Assembly receives some form of tax-subsidized health care,” Gardenhire took exception. “I have very nice health care provided to me through my private employer,” he said. “My wife’s on Social Security.”
Only later did the senator come to realize that, yes, the state of Tennessee is picking up a big chunk of the costs of his health insurance. According to a new report in The Tennessean, the state has paid almost $31,000 of Gardenhire’s insurance bill since 2008. The senator now says he asked to be dropped from the state coverage. There’s no form, however, to forgo the shame of being an uninformed blowhard.
Lang’s story is much more heartbreaking. The Fort Mill, South Carolina, resident is in very real danger of losing his eyesight. Diabetes is the central reason for the bleeding in his eyes and a partially detached retina, according to an article in The Charlotte Observer.
The problem is that Lang, 49, doesn’t have health insurance to cover the costs of surgery and the medical bills for treatment has drained his savings. Paying out-of-pocket was fine for Lang and his wife until February when he had a series of small strokes and his vision weakened.
“He’s in a very bad situation,” Malcolm Edwards, Lang’s ophthalmologist, said. “The longer he waits, the poorer his results will be.”
Several factors are working against Lang:
Lang, a Republican, had previously defied the Obamacare mandate to purchase health insurance.
By the time he applied for Obamacare, he had missed the enrollment date for this year.
Unable to work and earn money as a self-employed handyman, his income is too low to qualify for subsidies to purchase private insurance.
South Carolina is one of many states that has thus far refused to expand Medicaid to cover those who are trapped like Lang. (And, yes, Alabama is one of them, as well.)
Who’s to blame for this crisis?
Is it Lang, who by his own admission is a smoker and hasn’t been diligent in treating his diabetes?
Is it South Carolina’s Republican-dominated elected leadership that refuses to expand Medicaid?
It’s President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats, say the Langs. “We call it the Not Fair Health Care Act,” said Mary Lang, Luis’ wife.
In a larger sense, the culprit is one of political leadership at the top of the Republican Party. It’s House Republicans who voted dozens of times to repeal it. It’s a relentless judicial assault on the law by conservative activists. It’s a slate of 2016 GOP presidential wannabes promising to tear the law apart.
It’s members of Congress who won’t make peace with Obamacare and yet won’t offer a viable alternative.
By this measure, Gardenhire and Lang are caught in the crossfire of an ideological war that shows no sign of ceasing.
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Dothan Eagle on special needs children:
There’s been a lot of gloom and doom coming out of Montgomery, where Alabama lawmakers are charged with the task of balancing the state’s General Fund and looking for ways to close a gaping divide between revenue and expenses.
We’ve all heard about the possibility of shutting down half of the state parks, decimating the state trooper force and other draconian measures. One has to wonder if the threats are empty, perhaps simply saber-rattling to make tax hikes and/or gambling expansion seem like the lesser evil.
Regardless, turning special needs children into pawns in a political game is unconscionable, but that’s exactly what has happened.
On Monday, people gathered at Vivian B. Adams School in Ozark to protest a potential $35 million reduction in mental health funding. The number is misleading, because the loss of that $35 million would mean the state couldn’t receive another $64 million in matching funds from the federal government. Mental health care programs in Alabama would lose a whopping $99 million.
Lawmakers should have to see firsthand how their decisions will affect Alabama families. They had an opportunity in Ozark on Monday, but only one of 140 Alabama lawmakers showed up: Rep. Steve Clouse, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, who lives in Ozark.
We applaud Rep. Clouse for attending the rally and speaking with concerned residents, and appreciate his willingness to deliver their message to his colleagues in Montgomery.
We wish he could take the clients of Vivian B. Adams School with him. If Alabama lawmakers had to look into the faces of clients like Diane Kautz‘s daughter, for whom the school is the “happiest place on earth,” they’d surely find a way to keep funding intact.
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Decatur Daily on handguns:
There are few public servants we respect more than law enforcement officers.
As honest Americans and Alabamians, we have reason to take note of our appreciation to the men and women who patrol our cities, counties and state. Most of us can point to at least one specific instance when an officer responded in a time of need.
It’s too bad we don’t think of such moments when we elect politicians who create laws that make their jobs harder and more dangerous.
The so-called Second Amendment laws passed by our politicians, who pander to our most base and sometimes irrational fears, are a shining example.
It was never hard to buy a gun in Alabama. And no one ever threatened to take them away. Yet some of our least sincere, or least-witted, politicians convinced enough of us we needed laws to eliminate background checks for gun licenses. They determined that our sheriff’s officers — who could most readily identify those who should not have licenses — can deny the licenses only for very specific reasons, such as mental illness, which can be appealed by the gun owner.
We also decided it’s OK to carry a loaded handgun in our vehicles within reach of the driver. Fortunately, most Alabamians have resisted any temptation to shoot the driver who cut them off in traffic.
But guess who is most threatened by these changes in law? Police officers, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers.
As local police and sheriff’s departments remember those who have died in the line of duty during National Law Enforcement Memorial week, the concern going forward is that we have put more pressure on those who do indeed put themselves in danger every day for our safety.
It is especially sad that this special week of remembrance started with two officers murdered in Hattiesburg, Miss., after making a simple traffic stop.
The officers were killed amid a national debate over the use of force by police after several killings of unarmed civilians across the country, a reality that makes Alabama’s laws and others like them all the more confounding.
How can we expect officers to lean less on their weapons when they are more exposed than ever to encounters with armed civilians?
Pandora’s Box has been opened, and for what? To carry our guns into Walmart?
We have been played for suckers, by gun lobbies and the weak-kneed or weak-minded politicians who carry their water.
It is creating an awful situation for those whose job it is to protect us.
Where do we go from here? Step 1 is repealing some of our silly laws. Too bad it won’t happen this year.
The consequences of these laws are a faster growing number of memorials all around our country.
This doesn’t end well.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.