How Obamacare cost this rural Maine nurse her job

Julie is a 10-year health care veteran who has worked in various hospitals throughout New England. Seeking a better future for her children and an environment suitable to raise her family, she finally had the opportunity to work at a small regional hospital in rural Maine and settled there. She felt she was finally home. Then Obamacare came along and her career came to an abrupt halt.

I came across Julie’s story online and reached out to her. She had a lot to say about the Affordable Care Act and the effects it has had on the ability of small town health care facilities to balance expenses and remain viable.

In deference to fears of professional retaliation for sharing her opinions, I agreed to keep her identity and location private. Julie is not her real name. Here is what she had to say.

Given notice

When she received the news, Julie was understandably upset. She loved her job and thought of her co-workers as family. But as the influx of people seeking treatment without insurance or the ability to pay out of pocket grew, the hospital she worked for had no choice but to cut costs. Julie was one of those costs.

Julie says it was a direct result of Obamacare. She lives outside of a very small town without much in the way of economic opportunity. Like many poor rural towns, drug abuse and unemployment have become commonplace. High paying jobs with benefits are not. She makes a very simple and compelling argument:

“In theory, giving healthcare to everyone sounds great, but it doesn’t work. People can’t afford it.”

She adds, “When they can’t afford it, they don’t get it and when they get sick, they come to the hospital.” What happens if the person can’t pay?

“Nothing.” The hospital is left holding the bag.

Carrying the government burden

“The government says we have to treat everyone, but we don’t get reimbursed for that care like we used to,” said Julie. “No business can survive when they are paid 65% of the cost of their services. Small hospitals can’t survive. They will close down, and then there won’t be a place for the ill to go.”

Mandating what a business must do and for what price, is about as un-American as it gets. There is a word for it and I can assure you it has never been associated with American values or ideology. When a government interferes with the free market economy, the results are disastrous.

If you think single-payer nationalized healthcare is the answer, you are dead wrong. Ask a veteran how that kind of healthcare model is working out at VA hospitals.

Why so many on the left are convinced that government involvement in healthcare is a good idea is baffling.

All politics are local

I didn’t ask Julie about her politics and if that had any role in her position on Obamacare. I didn’t need to. It would not have mattered if she has ‘D’ or ‘R’ after her name on the voter rolls; her personal experience with the consequences of Obamacare wouldn’t have been any different.

“I don’t pretend to know anything about politics, but I will vote for anyone who gets rid of Obamacare” she said. That is stinging rebuke of the Affordable Care Act, especially from someone who works within its confines.

When I asked Julie if she had the opportunity to speak to lawmakers about healthcare reform, promised changes or the outright repeal of the ACA, the foremost thought on her mind was reducing the amount of “forced charity care” hospitals must comply with at their own expense.

She wants to be clear though, “It’s a difficult question…someone shouldn’t feel like if they are dying, they won’t get any help. But, if (the hospital) is expected to care for everyone (without insurance) we should be reimbursed for that.”

The future

While Republicans continue to stumble about trying to cobble together a sound replacement for the Affordable Care Act, workers in the healthcare industry are once again faced with uncertainty about their future and the role government will play in their livelihood, security and ability to treat their patients.

The good news is that Julie is working again. Whether that is a testament to the uniquely American ability to overcome obstacles put in their way or the healthcare industry’s resilience in the burden placed on them is hard to say.

When I asked Julie how she feels about the future of healthcare considering the changed political landscape she said, “I am optimistic.” She qualifies that statement though, adding, “…because I think it couldn’t get much worse.”

I hope Julie is right.

John Floyd

About John Floyd

John is a freelance writer and lives on a small homestead in northeast Maine. His passion for the outdoors and love of country are the influences behind his columns and blogs.