Although it’s in an adjoining Congressional distrct, I wish Congressman Goodlatte could be at the Wise County Fairgrounds this weekend to see the thousands of people seeking free care at the Remote Area Medical clinic.
About 1,100 such people descended on the fairgrounds Friday, with more expected Saturday and Sunday. Medical personnel from across the state were there with makeshift examination rooms in tents and sheds. Sheets hung from clothespins for privacy; giant fans pulled hot air through buildings intended for livestock shows.
These events are staged nationwide, but the Wise clinic is among the biggest, drawing people from throughout Appalachia and casting Washington’s sterile political debates into the starkest human terms.
A third of the patients who registered Friday were unemployed. Those who couldn’t afford a room slept in their cars or camped in the fields around the fairgrounds. They lined up in the dead of night to get a spot inside the event.
It is the place of last resort for people who can’t afford insurance even under Obamacare or who don’t qualify for Medicaid in a state where the legislature has resisted expansion.
To clarify: it’s Republicans in the General Assembly who have blocked expansion of Medicaid to 400,000 low-income working Virginians under the Affordable Care Act. And not only does Goodlatte oppose Medicaid expansion in Virginia, he wants to repeal it nationwide.
In a June 27 interview Goodlatte said Virginians should not worry about Republican efforts to curtail Medicaid expansion: “Since Virginia did not expand, we’re not going to experience that aspect of the problem.”
As health policy expert Timothy Jost noted:
[T]he logic here is bizarre. It is like saying that refugees who are starving to death in a refugee camp that has received no relief supplies should count themselves lucky that they will not be affected by the cut-off of relief supplies to another refugee camp that was receiving help.
Goodlatte even believes that 30 million Americans “chose not to get health insurance.” How much choice does he think was involved for those waiting for hours at the Wise County Fairgrounds?
Goodlatte needs to see first-hand the consequences of his heartless policy positions. I can’t help wondering what he would say to the folks lining up for desperately-needed free care in Wise County, Virginia.