Rural Healthcare is Under Attack

I’m Michael John Gray, Chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas.

When I’m Little Rock, I’m a five minute drive away from at least 3 hospitals no matter where I am in the city. That is a luxury most Arkansans don’t have. 

If you live in Little Rock, or any other major urban area, you probably take this for granted. If you’re in a car accident, or suffer a heart attack or stroke, you can be in the hospital in fewer than ten minutes.

But in Woodruff County where I’m from, you’re at least a thirty minute drive from the nearest emergency room or hospital.

Rural healthcare is just another part of life that has been forgotten by our leaders in Little Rock and Washington.

And right now, there’s a lawsuit in federal court that would end the Affordable Care Act. 

Although it wasn’t popular when it passed, the Affordable Care Act has been a lifeline to many of us who didn’t have access to healthcare. This healthcare law also has kept our rural hospitals open and has allowed many more to expand and open. 

For the first time all of us had protections for pre existing conditions and we could keep our kids on our healthcare until they turned 26.

There’s a lot that we’d like to see better in the Affordable Care Act. Our premiums should be lower, and we’d like our networks to be bigger.

But the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

But even with these new protections, there is a lot of work left. People in rural Arkansas still routinely die from heart attacks, strokes, and car accidents simply because they live too far away from an ambulance service or an emergency room. 

By ending the Affordable Care Act, The folks bringing this lawsuit want to make this bad situation even worse. 

They haven’t offered an alternative to what they’re going to do. Their goal isn’t to help rural communities all over Arkansas, it is simply to gain political power. 

They’ve already tried to kick many of us off our healthcare. They put in a requirement that kicked 18,000 people off their medicaid because they couldn’t connect to the confusing online work reporting service.

Like everything else, rural Arkansas felt the brunt of their actions, and too many of us were left without healthcare.

The truth is, all of us rural Arkansans have to accept some sacrifices. Our grocery stores, restaurants, and our cultural opportunities are limited. And a 20-minute wait for an ambulance is routine. People that don’t understand why we accept these sacrifices instruct us to “move away” or remind us that we “chose to live there” if we voice any objections.

For many of us, it is not a choice. But regardless of that choice, access to lifesaving healthcare shouldn’t depend upon which ZIP code you live in.

But because of this political scheme championed by our leaders in Little Rock and Washington, over 300,000 Arkansans could lose their healthcare. This lawsuit will likely close many of Arkansas’s rural hospitals.

For those of us in Woodruff County, an Ambulance drive that was 30 minutes will become an hour. 

That is a price many of us will be unable to pay, and a price we shouldn’t have to pay.  

I’m Michael John Gray, Chariman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas.