The doc becomes a politician
By Rod Haxton, editor
No one can accuse Congressman Roger Marshall of being a slow learner.
Less than two months on the job as the Big First representative, Marshall already knows that being a good Republican is far more important than holding to moral principles.
He has, no doubt, been visiting with Sen. Jerry Moran who took a little longer, but eventually came to realize the necessity of not stepping out of line with party ideology.
Marshall’s moment of truth came when the long awaited Republican health care plan was finally rolled out. He showed no hesitation in grabbing onto that bandwagon. In doing so, Marshall revealed he puts a higher value on being Roger the Republican rather than Roger the Doctor.
One would expect Dr. Marshall to have certain insight into the value of expanding Medicaid and making health care available to more people.
Dr. Marshall even makes a point of his unique perspective with a reminder that for about 10 of his 25 years as a physician in Great Bend, “I was the only doctor who would accept Medicaid for OB (obstetrics) patients within about 60 to 70 miles.”
What makes that claim even more significant is that a study by George Washington University School of Public Health revealed that 48 percent of all births in the U.S. are covered by Medicaid. In other words, a very significant number of families lack access to good-paying jobs and health insurance.
It’s commendable that Dr. Marshall was willing to fill that crucial role.
Apparently Congressman Marshall never got the memo.
He has thrown his support behind the Republican health plan that will save our democracy and transfer billions of dollars to our wealthiest citizens at the expense of mothers and babies who rely on Medicaid.
Many of the 20 million people who gained some measure of insurance coverage under Obamacare will lose it under Trumpcare (or Ryancare, depending on who doesn’t want credit for it). Starting in 2020 (coincidentally, not until after the 2018 mid-term elections), Trumpcare would eliminate expanded Medicaid for the working poor who earn up to 133% of the federal poverty level.
Dr. Marshall, you might recognize these as the people who came to you to have their babies delivered.
Not to worry, because Medicaid will become a program funded by block grants. Ask anyone who has followed the ultraconservative plan for school funding in Kansas the last two years about the wonders of block grants.
Despite promises by proponents, it won’t keep pace with rising costs. Even House Speaker Paul Ryan has described it as a way to cap health care costs - which is another way of saying, “This is what you get. Make the most of it.”
If those on Medicaid living within 60 to 70 miles of Great Bend thought it was difficult before to find a physician willing to do OB work, imagine what it will be like when Medicaid funding is capped.
And that doesn’t even begin to address those who are booted off Medicaid under the Republican plan.
Which is why the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all expressed their opposition to the repeal of Obamacare and replacing it with Trumpcare.
But, many of their members put the Hippocratic Oath above politics.
Marshall was able to ease his conscience during a recent interview by claiming: “Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us.’ There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves.”
He further added, “Just, like, homeless people. I think just morally, spiritually, socially, (some people) just don’t want health care.”
Sure they don’t.
We imagine Marshall can give countless examples of people who, when given the choice, prefer to remain sick or in pain.
Which prompts the next question, “Why would poor people who don’t care be willing to drive 60 or 70 miles to see an obstetrician?”
And since Marshall so readily brought Jesus into the debate, perhaps he can reference some passage in the Bible where Jesus wanted to heal more of the sick and impoverished, but even He knew that’s not what they really wanted.
Who could have known that Jesus was a Republican?
But, that isn’t the big takeaway from Marshall’s comments. It demonstrates there is no separation between Marshall and the familiar Republican dogma that poor people are poor by choice. That’s why poor people don’t mind it when Republicans increase sales taxes which hit their pocketbooks far greater than the wealthy. It’s why they don’t mind that Republicans are united against raising the minimum wage.
If Republicans were to be anything but themselves, it would make the goal of poor people remaining in poverty that much more difficult.
In all honesty, we’re trying to show some measure of compassion for the position that Marshall finds himself in.
How difficult must it be to learn that you can be a physician, or a party-line Republican, but you can’t be both? How agonizing it must be to know that your loyalty to one contradicts your loyalty to the other?
Or maybe it wasn’t that difficult after all.
Poor people choose to be poor. Sick people choose to be sick.
Your duty is to simply give the people what they want.
Rod Haxton can be reached at email@example.com
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