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Editorial: ‘Mr. Trump really needed to be here’

  • Matthew Kennedy gets his eyes checked at the Remote Area Medical Clinic on July 21 in Wise, Va. AP


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The photographs were shocking. Hundreds upon hundreds of people lined up in the heat for hours after a night spent in a car or on the ground, all in hopes of getting a free pair of eyeglasses or having teeth pulled, pain treated or an illness diagnosed.

Treatment was provided by a volunteer medical staff from the charity Remote Area Medical. The doctors, dentists and other staffers worked under tents or saw patients in horse stalls, sheds and trailers. The photos were not taken in a third-world nation or a refugee camp in a war-ravaged country. The people, roughly 2,000 in all, were white and the words on their T-shirts and hats were in English. They were Americans in a state whose Legislature refused to expand Medicaid to cover childless adults.

People desperate for health care they couldn’t afford had journeyed, some on foot, to a clinic in Wise, Va., 400 miles southeast of Washington, D.C., where Senate Republicans were struggling to repeal the Affordable Care Act and slash funding for Medicaid, the health care program for the poor. Tuesday afternoon, by a vote of 51-50, Senate Republicans passed a procedural measure that will allow them to begin debate on yet another attempt to do just that.

The seven-year effort to repeal Obamacare has become Republican orthodoxy. Only Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, states where expanded Medicaid has made life better for thousands of constituents, voted against opening debate on a bill that doesn’t yet exist.

The senators who voted “yes” put their boots on the backs of the people in line at the county fairground in Wise. A lack of health care is one of the things keeping them down and out.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act or damaging it more than the constant uncertainty that’s driven insurers out of the market means the people in Wise will have to line up in the sun again next year. They will not get the preventive care that allows them to keep their teeth, see the world clearly, or manage diabetes and other chronic conditions.

“We’re sicker here than in Central America,” a RAM doctor told a New York Times reporter. “In central America they’re eating beans and rice and walking everywhere. They’re not drinking Mountain Dew and eating candy. They’re not having an epidemic of obesity, diabetes and lung cancer.”

RAM, which was founded in 1985 by Stan Brock, a British adventurer and philanthropist, holds clinics all over the world, as well as across America. The ones in the United States are mostly in the South and West, but the need for care is so great the group has begun holding clinics in places like Los Angeles.

“Mr. Trump really needed to be here,” Brock told a Roanoke Times reporter covering the clinic. “There’s been absolutely no change in the number of people who come to these events since the day that I started it in the United States.”

The president, and members of Congress from both parties, if they have the nerve, can see the suffering inflicted on people by a nation that’s failed to make health care universal. RAM will hold a clinic in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 26
and 27.

Members should visit, and then those with no hearts can get back to the business of repealing the Affordable Care Act.