Obama foes hate success that made clinic obsolete 

When the Mena Star reported that Ninth Street Ministries would close its free medical clinic for the uninsured this month because nearly everyone in the mountains and glens around the town had gotten insurance through Obamacare, the story went viral on the Internet.

It was an example either of Obamacare's success or its cruel failure, and thus the Mena charity clinic becomes an allegory for the whole drama of Obamacare, which has dominated American politics for five years.

Mena has a history of quaintly standing in the big currents of history. In the late 1920s, Commonwealth College, a left-wing workers school, moved from the hamlet of Ink to Mena, which had just rid itself of its last blacks and welcomed the Ku Klux Klan. (The county's black population, by the way, has climbed back to 14.) A few years later, amid the unrest of the Great Depression, state and national politicians were investigating the Mena school's faculty for agitating and promoting the un-American idea of racial and worker solidarity. Twenty years later, Commonwealth's star scholar, a lad named Orval Faubus, by then the governor of Arkansas, would become the symbol of defiance of the federal courts and the Constitution, and one conservative author traced it back to Mena.

By the 1980s, Commonwealth was gone and a rogue named Barry Seal was running guns for President Reagan and Oliver North to the Nicaragua Contras from the Mena Airport and smuggling back cocaine for the private markets. The CIA directed a cover-up. By 1992, conservatives had turned the Mena airport into a Bill Clinton/CIA operation.

But there seemed to be nothing the least unsavory about either the Mena poor people's clinic or its folding, but rather it was a parable about compassion and humanity rewarded — that is, until the story hit the Internet.

The clinic is a project of the First Baptist Church of Mena. One day a week since 1998, volunteer doctors and nurses have seen patients who are uninsured and can't afford medical care. Until late this winter, the place was packed on clinic days. About 300 patients a month, sometimes many more, came from the countryside for care at the small frame building on Ninth Street. In February, only 80 showed up, then three in March.

"Because people are qualifying for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, our free medical clinic will not be needed anymore," said Stacey Bowser, a registered nurse and businesswoman who runs the clinic. "This will conclude our mission."

The clinic's closing was a matter of some currency in Arkansas because Mena's state representative, a farmer and building contractor named Nate Bell, has been the legislature's most virulent critic of Obamacare and particularly of the feature that lets very poor workers and their families get insurance through Medicaid and the so-called "private option."

With the promise that he would help pass the Medicaid appropriation, Bell got legislators and Gov. Beebe to go along with a proviso that prevents the state from using some $16 million of federal aid to educate people about the availability of affordable insurance and to help them enroll. His goals, he said, are to kill the whole insurance program when the legislature meets next January and, meantime, stop any more people from getting health insurance. But about 165,000 Arkansans enrolled in Obamacare through Medicaid this winter, before Bell's ban took effect, and another 45,000 who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid bought insurance through the Obamacare exchange.

The clinic's announcement that, thanks to Obamacare, its charity would no longer be necessary seemed to sound a triumphal note.

The Mena Star's story hit the Internet and its website was soon swamped. Obamacare success stories were in vogue. All the critics' predictions and prayers that people would reject Obamacare and stay uninsured proved to be forlorn. But in the Republican blogosphere, where Obamacare is topic one, Mena symbolized Obamacare's failure. It had replaced private charity with government giveaways. One social networker said it was further proof that Obamacare was bad for American business. It had shuttered a thriving "business" in the town of Mena.

Mena reminds us that these poor people's clinics played a key role in the healthcare reform movement. Wendell Potter, a hero for healthcare reformers, was an insurance executive who had been an architect of the campaign in 2007 to stop insurance reform as it was rising as the central issue in the approaching Democratic presidential race.

By 2009, Potter had experienced a road-to-Damascus moment, resigned and become a whistleblower. He testified before Congress about the strategy of the insurance industry and allies like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Koch brothers to strike fear into the country about the coming "government takeover of healthcare" because the industry was sure the insurance overhaul would take the form of a single-payer system or curtail insurance profits erecting competition for commercial insurers.

Potter recounted his conversion. He visited a touring free clinic run by Remote Area Medical in rural Virginia, where he saw streams of people from nearby hills queued in long lines to get basic medical procedures. He took pictures of sick people lying on rain-soaked pavements waiting for treatment.

"What country am I in?" he asked himself. "It just didn't seem to be a possibility that I was in the United States."

Potter was imbued with shame for his collaboration in deceiving people about health-insurance reform with scare stories and bogus statistics, an effort that he says now is continuing on a mounting scale. Potter no doubt would admire the Ninth Street Ministries but celebrate its closing as an American success story.

Speaking of...

  • Conflicting opinons on Affordable Care Act

    July 22, 2014
    A D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals panel has ruled 2-1 that participants in federally operated health insurance exchanges in 34 states cannot qualify for federal subsidies. These are the states, including Arkansas, that didn't set up their own health insurance marketplaces and left it to the government. It will be a while before the ruling has an impact, if ever. /more/
  • Faith and facts: Tax-cutting and Obamacare

    July 14, 2014
    Arkansas political campaigns this year, from the Republican side, are all about the beauty of tax cuts and the horrors of Obamacare. You have to ignore some inconvenient facts to accept the sales pitches. /more/
  • Obamacare: The more the Kochs rant, the more people sign up

    July 10, 2014
    The louder the opposition to Obamacare, the more people sign up. Or so a new analysis indicates. /more/
  • The amazing drop in expected Medicare costs

    July 9, 2014
    More bad news for the Obamacare naysayers. There's been a dramatic drop in expected Medicare spending — $50 billion in savings this year against costs predicted four years ago. /more/
  • Innovation in health care under Obamacare includes single-payer experiment

    July 9, 2014
    Cheryl Smith, recruited from Utah to run Arkansas's health insurance marketplace, told legislators yesterday that they sky was the limit the state could take on seeking waivers for "innovative" ways to deliver coverage under the Affordable Care Act. She mentioned a single-payer experiment in Vermont, but — sadly — didn't suggest that here. /more/
  • Jobs, market, health security looking up: What an Obamanation

    July 3, 2014
    Economic indicators are looking strong and 6 million more people have health security thanks to new insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. How good would things be if we didn't have such a terrible president. (Snark intended.) /more/
  • Five carriers will sell policies on Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace in 2015; all expected to sell statewide

    July 2, 2014
    The Arkansas Insurance Department today announced that five companies plan to sell health insurance plans on the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace in 2015, the second year for the regulated marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. The issuers that have filed are Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, the national multi-state Blue Cross Blue Shield, Celtic Insurance Company (selling in Arkansas as Ambetter), and two companies owned by the parent company QualChoice Holdings: QualChoice Life and Health Insurance Company, Inc. and QCH Health Plan Inc. /more/
  • Picking apart the teachers' insurance "fix" just approved by the legislature

    July 2, 2014
    The crisis in the public school employee (PSE) insurance system is complicated. The politics behind it are complicated. The solutions just passed by the legislature to once again shore up the troubled fund — those are complicated, too. But the underlying reason behind the fund’s insolvency is simple: the public isn't paying enough for its share of PSE insurance. /more/
  • Tom Cotton: "Mark Pryor thinks that faith is something that only happens on Sunday mornings."

    July 2, 2014
    In an interview with KNWA in Fayetteville, Rep. Tom Cotton commented on Sen. Mark Pryor's faith in response to a question about the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case: "Barack Obama and Mark Pryor think that faith is something that only happens at 11:00 on Sunday mornings. That's when we worship but faith is what we live every single day." Pryor called it a "deeply personal attack...for him to question my faith is out of bounds." The Pryor campaign called on Cotton to apologize. /more/
  • State-appropriated funding for Obamacare guides ends; outreach will depend on private funding

    July 1, 2014
    Today, the first day of the new fiscal year, marks the end of state-appropriated funding for more than 500 outreach workers known as In-Person Assistant (IPA) guides, charged with education, outreach, and enrollment help for the new insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act. The Arkansas Insurance Department has closed contracts with the 27 organizations tasked with hiring and overseeing 537 guides throughout the state. The change comes because of an amendment to the private option adopted in last year's fiscal session. In some cases, workers will be laid off and those guide positions will simply end; in other cases, organizations may seek private funding to continue the guides' work or may continue to employ the guides themselves, adding the positions within their own scope of work. /more/
  • More »

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

More by Ernest Dumas

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • The lie that won't die: Tax cuts help economy

    • Jul 17, 2014
  • Lack of leadership, Oaklawn courtship: legislative folly

    It used to be ritual that the governor addressed lawmakers at the end of each regular and emergency session to reassure them that Arkansans were in their debt for again protecting the state from the ravages of fate.
    • Jul 10, 2014
  • Hobby Lobby ruling politically crafted

    There are legal decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court that have big political dimensions and then there are just big political decisions. The narrow decision allowing certain corporations to deny birth-control coverage for their women employees as required by federal law is one of the latter.
    • Jul 3, 2014
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31  
  • Re: Professors can't be rape police

    • The reason why there was a surge in reports is because victims are no longer…

    • on July 20, 2014
  • Re: Professors can't be rape police

    • to quote the butthole surfers, "...and then there was the ever-present football player rapist..."

    • on July 20, 2014
  • Re: Enter the loan sharks

    • hello client, My name is Mrs bernarlyn a villamor. i am a private loan officer,…

    • on July 19, 2014
 

© 2014 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation