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Texas Gov. Rick Perry points at himself.
Gov. Rick Perry refused to expand Medicaid, and an estimated 9,000 Texans will die each year as a result.
Remember all the reasons we so badly needed to reform health care in America? Does it seem to anyone else like the more the media focuses on political battles over Obamacare, the less we hear about the people who have been struggling for years without insurance, who have faced losing their insurance the moment they got sick, or who have gone bankrupt because of medical bills even though they had insurance? A Texas Observer story by Rachel Pearson, a medical student and volunteer director of a free clinic in Galveston, makes clear that the massive human cost the media was telling us about in 2008 and 2009 is still there, even if the attention has moved on to broken websites and canceled junk insurance plans.

Gov. Rick Perry's Texas hasn't accepted Medicaid expansion, of course, and an estimated 9,000 Texans will die each year as a result. But there is hope for people who can get insurance through the exchanges who never would have been able to afford it before. Take Pearson's former patient Jimmy and his wife Vanessa. Jimmy had a full-time job, but it didn't provide insurance and they couldn't afford to buy their own, so they had to go to the free clinic and then to the ER when Jimmy got sick. Turned out, he had cancer:

Vanessa called from a hospital in Houston in early November, distraught, asking me to help her decide whether or not to let the doctors turn Jimmy’s breathing machine off. She was afraid she wouldn’t be able to live with herself, no matter which she chose. I gave her the advice I’d give a friend: that I trusted her love for her husband and her ability to decide from a place of love. Jimmy died late that night.

Vanessa’s request for UTMB funding wasn’t approved. She has received a $17,000 bill from UTMB for the visit when Jimmy went through the ER, and a $327,000 preliminary bill from the Houston hospital.

If the Affordable Care Act had been in effect last year, they would have been able to afford insurance, get treatment early and avoid bankruptcy. I use stories like theirs—cancer stories—when I am encouraging my patients to check out the insurance exchanges.

Isn't an effort to help people like this—even a flawed effort—better than a policy that says "let them die"?

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Thu Jan 02, 2014 at 02:00 PM PST.

Also republished by TexKos-Messing with Texas with Nothing but Love for Texans and Houston Area Kossacks.

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