I guess the big talker in the WashPost today had to be this story, another deep dive into the murky pond of Trump’s America. The tl;dr: Seventy-four percent of McDowell County, W.Va. voted for Trump. About that same number needs the various benefits of the Affordable Care Act just to make it to their next birthday. What is the disconnect? Well, it’s pretty cavernous:
Another patient comes in: Carolyn Hodges, 68, who tells Keisha that she’s been feeling dizzy. Carolyn has Medicare, the public health insurance for the elderly. Medicare doesn’t cover all health-care costs, which is why Carolyn is as worried about the price of her medications as the fact that she’s been bumping into walls.
The last time she went to pick up her husband Roger’s insulin, Carolyn tells Keisha, the pharmacist said it would be more than $600, instead of the $100 or so they usually pay. That was when she learned Roger was in the Medicare prescription “donut hole,” which means that the cost of his medications had exceeded his limit for the year, and he would be forced to pay far more for prescriptions until the year ended and the tab started over. One initiative of the ACA has been to close that hole incrementally, but Carolyn, unaware of that, sees the bills piling up and thinks she knows who must be to blame.
“Thank you, Obama!” Carolyn says, throwing her arms in the air.
A week does not go by that I don’t read a story like this, or yet another tweetstorm from some poverty tourist with a laptop and a Medium page, telling the world how rough things are in Trump country, and how much they’re a-gonna suffer, etc. etc. And I’m getting tired of them. They knew precisely what they voted for, and now they’re getting it. How much sympathy are the rest of us required to have for someone like this?
Heartburn is just the latest problem for Clyde, a patient Keisha sees every three months. Like so many in this corner of Appalachia, he used to have a highly paid job at a coal mine. Company insurance covered all of his medical needs. Then he lost the job and ended up here, holding a cane and suffering not only from heartburn but diabetes, arthritis, diverticulitis, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Because of the ACA, Clyde’s visit is covered by Medicaid. Before the law, most West Virginians without children or disabilities could not qualify for Medicaid, no matter how poor they were. The ACA — better known here as Obamacare — expanded the program to cover more people, such as Clyde, who can depend on Keisha to fix his heartburn without having to worry about the cost.
As for the other problems in his life, he has put his hopes in Trump, who came to West Virginia saying he would bring back coal and put miners back to work. When Trump mentioned repealing Obamacare, Clyde wasn’t sure what that might mean for his Medicaid. But if he had a job that provided health insurance, he reasoned, he wouldn’t need Medicaid anyway, so he voted for Trump, along with 74 percent of McDowell County.
Love that word choice: “he reasoned.” He “reasoned” that a blowhard said he could command a river to reverse its course, and then his raft would no longer be drifting toward that waterfall. Good to know.
Clyde! Listen up! The reason you lost your job is, coal is over. Natural gas, produced in abundance through fracking, ran coal off the road. Lots of environmentalists worked hard against fracking, too, but I expect you thought of them as limp-wristed hippies and special snowflakes and all the rest of it.
I take a few deep breaths when I read stuff like this. I am empathetic, really I am. I understand what it means to be ignorant, and stuck in a shithole, and grasping for straws. I blame a lot of people for how things are turning out, including the cable-news executives who shoveled free airtime at Trump like Clyde shoveled coal down in the mine. But my patience is wearing thin.
I don’t think I’m alone, either. David Fahrenthold, a WashPost reporter, posted this story on his Twitter twice, asking people just to try to understand. The replies were pretty brutal. People do understand. They’re just not feeling nice about it.
How was y’all’s weekend? This was mine:
Yes, Patti Smith’s 40th-anniversary “Horses” tour. My young friend Dustin (who took the picture) got a plus-one for his review ticket. Not bad at all. I go back and forth on Patti; at her best she’s a truly interesting art-rock artist — sorry, I reject that she’s ever been “punk” — and at her worst, just a big bunch of pretension. But she’s aged into an interesting senior citizenship (she’s 70), and maybe I’ve mellowed. It was a very nice show, complete with that new wrinkle in rock shows, at least by the Olds: Bringing one’s kids out as part of the backing band.
After that we swung by the Old Miami to hear some friend of Dustin’s spin, as they say. Equally enjoyable, as she was working a fun mashup of ’90s hip-hop and newer stuff. Biggie’s “Hypnotize” never gets old, does it?
The last thing Patti did was slice the strings of her guitar, one by one, and throw them into the crowd. Don’t think Biggie ever did that, though.
I’ll leave you with a shot of Wendy in a pensive pose…
…as we start the week, pensively.