‘Death by poverty’ in Idaho

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts arrives prior to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES  - Tags: POLITICS)   - RTX17Z1K

This one’s on you, Chief Justice Roberts.

Idaho is one of the red states that refused Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling in 2012 that saved the law as a whole, but further politicized Medicaid and condemned millions of people to being without health insurance—and condemned some to death. Idahoan Jenny Steinke is dead, killed by an asthma attack, but more specifically killed by the Republican party. Steinke died on September 1, the day her husband’s brand new insurance from the only job either of them has had that offered benefits kicked in. Steinke had been self-treating her asthma buy getting short-acting inhalers when she could from a community health clinic, and by buying extra short-acting inhalers from friends. Because she wasn’t being treated regularly for her asthma, here’s what she didn’t know.

“Several times a week I see people who have delayed medical care

they don’t have coverage, either Medicaid or insurance,” said Ken Krell, director of critical care at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.
“They put off being seen until it’s really dire,” he said. “It’s a very common occurrence.” […]

“With asthma, if you use the short-acting inhalers you get some relief,” Krell said. “But if you keep accelerating the use, the effect is shorter and shorter and eventually you become refractory to it.”

Jenny’s inhaler was no longer working. She would’ve soon started to feel like she was suffocating, Krell said. She walked next door to a retired neighbor she was friends with, Richard Kelley, and asked him to drive her to the hospital. She knew she was having an asthma attack, Kelley said, but hadn’t initially seemed overly distressed or out of breath.

Just three minutes into their drive to the hospital, she was no longer breathing. She was put on a respirator for three days, but it wasn’t enough. Too much damage had been done to her brain from the lack of oxygen during that asthma attack. She died a completely preventable death. It was, as her mother-in-law Clella Steinke said, “death by poverty.”

“This is how poverty treats people, when they’re up and down, back and forth, trying to make it,” Clella said. “Without medical care, you don’t make it very far.”

Except it’s not poverty that killed her son’s wife. Indifference to poverty is what caused this random and totally preventable death, and that indifference has names and faces attached: Republicans. It’s Idaho’s Gov. Butch Otter, who has repeatedly refused to consider expanded Medicaid even after a working group he appointed to explore the program recommended it, twice. It’s every elected Republican in the state of Idaho and all of the people who voted for them. It’s Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. They killed Jenny Steinke by refusing her the simple, inexpensive luxury of getting regular treatment for her very common health condition.

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