Morally Reprehensible

Mercy Hospital in Independence, KS will be closed by this weekend. It had seventy-five beds, and saw up to 250 emergency cases each year. There are two other hospitals within a half hour drive of Independence. The hospital had been there since 1910.

Its closing, by all accounts, would not have been prevented if Governor Brownback had expanded Medicaid and accepted millions of dollars from the Federal Government. But it might have extended its life, and given its owners a chance to try other procedures to save it.

Regardless, this hospital’s closing has ignited a conversation across Kansas about medical care that has culminated this week in an email from the Governor’s office (meant for their supporters) that had the audacity to call Medicaid expansion “morally reprehensible.”

We have some thoughts about what is morally reprehensible.

The MainStream Coalition has always stood up for those among us who cannot care for themselves. We started as a coalition of neighbors, concerned for our communities. We support compassionate legislation that recognizes that it is a moral duty to care for those less fortunate than ourselves.

The email sent by the Governor’s office is full of language meant to inflame and spin, “ruse,” “self-inflicted,” “political toxicity,” “entitlements,” “bloated,” and of course, “morally reprehensible.”

Their argument boils down to this: Obamacare is the reason the Independence hospital closed, Medicaid expansion is an entitlement for lazy people, and the right thing to do is… oh, but there is no solution provided in the email. No policy stance, no suggestion, no plan.

The only stance the Topeka administration has ever taken on helping those who are still not getting the care they need is to pit the disabled against the poor. The Governor has made it a “priority” to remove disabled Kansans from the waiting list for care before considering any expansion in options for the “able-bodied” Kansans looking for “handouts.”

Well, we find it morally reprehensible that Governor Brownback would continue this right-wing fabrication that those Kansas less fortunate than us are “lazy,” and looking for “entitlements,” when in fact they work at low wage or part-time jobs that don’t offer health care.

We contend with his claim that somehow, Kansas cannot care for both its disabled and its poor, when Medicaid expansion would leave disabled care in a better situation by taking some of the burden off Medicare and improving tax revenue in the state.

We get angry over his sweeping $55 million from a Medicaid pharmacy rebate program made possible by “Obamacare” to fill his own disastrous tax revenue hole. Or the $17 million in Federal funding for CHIP, while also pushing poor Kansans to enroll their children in that same Federal program.

This email was unquestionably a political stunt. It attacks Democrats and liberals, it praises the Governor and uses many right wing trigger words. Its intent is clear.

But so to is its origin. It comes from an administration out of touch with regular Kansans. From a Kansas leadership that at its core, is distrustful of any but those already within its circle.

The Governor was re-elected by a quarter of the registered voters in Kansas, and an even smaller fraction of those eligible to vote.

In 2016, we need to silence this echo chamber. We need to open it up to hear all the voices of all Kansans, including the poor, the disabled, the able-bodied, the compassionate.

Do your part. Vote, but do more than vote. Volunteer. Run. Speak out.

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