Futures are in jeopardy when a hospital closes

Are bad things acceptable as long as they happen to somebody else? This question has plagued me on and off throughout my life whenever I saw people ignore or laugh at others who were not as fortunate as themselves. I know we can’t always help everyone we meet who needs help. I also know that some people wallow in neediness and refuse help when offered for whatever reason they may have. I understand some people may be mired in a culture or mindset that keeps them in unhealthy, or what they perceive as, unchangeable situations. We can feel insulted if someone doesn’t want our help, and after a while it becomes easier to ignore the needy.

Right now, with the rhetoric that’s coming out of Washington, D.C. and Nashville, it is difficult to reconcile what is being said, with what we read about and see, with our own eyes, here in Tennessee. We’re being told the economy is great, jobs are plentiful and everything is fine, but is it really?

The other day I was in our local Walmart and realized they’re in the process of installing more self-serve check out registers and eliminating the number of lanes with human cashiers. I began to wonder, how many people will be losing their jobs or having their hours cut? I used the self-serve registers three times since they were originally installed. I only had a couple of items, was in a hurry and the lines for the registers with humans manning them, were long. I felt somewhat guilty, as if I was depriving someone of their job. I was stunned by the amount of new self-serve registers they are now installing. The Walmart Company is huge. They make billions in profits, along with getting obscene tax breaks, and financial incentives from the government. They are one of the largest employers in Sparta. How much money will they save by reducing staff? How much profit over people is enough? 

I wondered how many people, employed at the Sparta Walmart are currently making enough money to live on without assistance? If their hours are cut, will they even be able to afford to keep working there? What will they have to do to survive? Does Walmart even care? The more I thought about it, the more upset I got. The prices at Walmart and other stores have been rising. Is it due to inflation or the results of “winning” Trump’s trade wars? I’m sure either option is cutting into Walmart’s bottom line, and I doubt if a reduction of staff will have any impact on the customer’s bottom line. I worked in a grocery store when I was younger. I’m retired now and I certainly don’t want to be an unpaid cashier in order to expand Walmart’s profits. I’ll shop somewhere else. With the upcoming holidays, self-service check outs should be rather interesting and frustrating for customers and any employees that remain.

In the meantime, Tennessee has been rated as Number 2 in the United States for the closing down of the most hospitals, only outdone by Texas, which is way bigger than we are. We have 21 counties, in our state, that have no local hospitals and well over 100,000 people without quick access to emergency room services. There are several reasons for this, but they’re all associated with MONEY! In some cases, it was mismanagement of money, robbing Peter to pay Paul and hoping things would change; reimbursements from Medicaid and Medicare that didn’t cover all the costs that were billed; and the growing number of uninsured human beings in Tennessee. 

The Medicaid expansion that was associated with the ACA, would have provided close to 300,000 Tennesseans with affordable healthcare. Our state assembly thought it was better to deny their constituents that opportunity and refuse over $3 million a day, from the Federal Government, in order to “give the finger” to President Obama. It didn’t matter that it was Tennesseans’ share of tax dollars we paid to the Federal government. Our legislators didn’t care about who might be harmed by their decision, as long as they had their own health insurance. They didn’t care that people who were able to get help to pay the premiums on good health insurance during the first year of the ACA, were faced with premiums that kept increasing in following years because our legislators didn’t want to expand Medicaid. They didn’t care that employers who supplied their employees with healthcare coverage were forced to pay higher premiums for themselves and their employees because our elected leaders were standing up for Tennessee’s right, to be able to tell Washington to take our tax money and give it to other states that were acting responsibly by helping their citizens. 

Tennesseans have been fighting for the expansion of Medicaid for several years now. Gov. Haslam gave lip service to the cause, knowing full well, it would never pass. People are not only dying because they can’t afford medical care, but they are dying because they have no access to regular or emergency medical care within an hour or less from their homes. Nashville’s Channel 5 News recently did an eye-opening documentary about the crisis happening in our rural communities when hospitals close.  Not only is the health of members of the community threatened, their futures are put in jeopardy, when a hospital closes. In many cases, the hospital was the biggest employer in the area, providing good wages and benefits to their employees. Communities have trouble encouraging new businesses into their towns if there is no local or nearby hospital. 

It is shameful that the richest country in the world, has elected leaders who will deny their own citizens access to affordable healthcare. They have access to great health care for themselves so why should they care about anyone else. It seems these same leaders don’t care about their constituents until it’s election time, until then, the attitude is “it sucks to be you!”.

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