A victim of the right's war on Obamacare?

A photo of Florida Governor Rick Scott Governor Rick Scott led Republican efforts to block Medicaid expansion in Florida

Some liberal bloggers claim to have found the face of expanding health care reform to the poor. Her name is - or was - Charlene Dill.

Ms Dill, a 32-year-old Florida mother of three with a history of heart problems, collapsed and died in a stranger's house while working as a vacuum cleaner salesman - one of her three part-time jobs.

Ms Dill had stopped taking prescription medication for her condition after she no longer qualified for Medicaid - the government health-care programme for the poor - because her yearly income of $9,000 was above the maximum amount to qualify for coverage.

On March 21, Ms Dill - who was born in Pennsylvania and moved to Florida when she was 18, estranged from her husband and on her own raising children ages 3, 7 and 9 - passed away. And now the painful question: Was her death preventable? Those who have spread word of her story argue that it was.

You see, Ms Dill would have been covered by Medicaid if Florida had taking advantage of federal funding to expand the programme under the Affordable Care Act.

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Florida Governor Rick Scott is now officially a killer, and Charlene Dill is one of his victims”

End Quote Thom Hartmann Truthout

Congress had intended for the expansion to be mandatory, but in 2012 the Supreme Court ruled that states could choose to opt out - and 21 states, thanks largely to Republican efforts, have done so. In those states, there is a gap in coverage for those who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to receive insurance subsidies provided by the Affordable Care Act - a gap into which an estimated 5 million Americans fall.

Ms Dill was one of those Americans, and a number of left-wing writers argue that her death is at Republicans' feet.

"Dill's death was not unpredictable, nor was it unpreventable," writes the Orlando Weekly's Billy Manes, who first publicised the story.

Truthout's Thom Hartmann agrees.

"Florida Governor Rick Scott is now officially a killer, and Charlene Dill is one of his victims," he writes. He accuses Republicans of playing politics with people's lives and sacrificing Dill in the interest of scoring political points.

"Republicans say that they're pro-life, but that's a bald-faced lie, because they refuse to let low-wage working Americans have access to life-saving Medicaid," he writes. "If Rick Scott and his Republican buddies in the Florida legislature are really the Christians they claim they are, then they're going to burn in hell. Deservedly."

Female-driven network Women on the Move published an emotional letter from Dill's best friend, Kathleen Voss Woolrich, in which she urges voters to remember her friend when heading to the polls:

You see the main argument Republicans use is that it's some lazy person who needs Medicaid expansion. That those of us living without healthcare or dental care are lazy. But my friend a single beautiful mother worked three jobs. She paid taxes. She paid her house taxes. And now she's dead.

US Representative Alan Grayson writes inthe Tampa Bay Times that Ms Dill's story should be a turning point. The Democrat urges lawmakers to ditch the strategy of saving face in favour of saving lives.

"To Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee, on behalf of all of Florida, I have one request of you: Choose life. Expand Medicaid. Take the money. And spare 1 million Floridians from suffering, from sickness and from death," he writes.

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Ms Dill's tragic death and her family's loss is hard enough without turning her tragedy into a political football”

End Quote Noah Rothman Mediaite

The New Republic's Brian Beutler writes that while it's impossible to prove without any doubt that Ms Dill would have lived if she had been able to enroll in an expanded Medicaid, Democrats can point to her death as a stark illustration of the consequences of the healthcare gap:

People either qualify for Medicaid or they don't. They either qualify for premium tax credits or they don't. Either they're insured when disaster strikes or they're not. It's completely uncontroversial to argue that Dill would have had a more fighting chance at survival if Florida Republicans hadn't refused the expansion against state interest.

This is all too much for Mediaite's Noah Rothman, who says the rush from liberals to tout Ms Dill's story is a sign of "panic" at their party's prospects in this November's midterm congressional elections.

He writes:

Ms Dill's tragic death and her family's loss is hard enough without turning her tragedy into a political football to be eagerly run up the field by an increasingly desperate base of Democratic partisans and their ethically challenged accomplices in the Congress. The facts associated with Medicaid expansion suggest, at the very least, that it is impossible to directly link Ms Dill's death to Florida's decision not to expand Medicaid. But that will not stop the president's allies in the press from adopting even the most base and immoral tactics in the attempt to stave off disaster in November.

Whether it's moral to do so or not, Beutler doesn't think Democrats are likely to capitalise on the story.

While easily debunked Obamacare horror stories flood social media, he says that liberals are often reluctant to play a similar game.

"That cautiousness simultaneously reflects the left's greatest political strength and weakness: its relatively healthy epistemological standards, and its at-times lamentable unwillingness to seize its own political advantage," writes Beutler.

(Kierran Petersen contributed to this story.)



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  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    @ abelcain - What broke you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    @ 10. abelcain

    "Sounds to me like she was purposely staying in a low tax bracket to get government subsidies."

    The statement is not only a CALLOUS (meaning being insensitive and cruel disregard for others) statement, but without a SHRED of evidence to back it up.

    How in the world do you know that "she was purposely staying in a low tax bracket"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    12. The Republicans do this again and again and get reelected every time, i.e. Joe public is doing this again and again as fearful of socialism!

    Who are the profoundly worthless people who live this way?

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    The Democrats hardly need to capitalise on this story. The Republicans work 24/7 to do this for them; without knowing it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Yet refugees get coverage. The old get coverage. Vets get coverage. Those are all socialized healthcare plans, which the working cannot get. Republicans tout socialized healthcare as evil, but it already exists in the US. This woman did not leech off the state, she tried. She worked. People like this deserve better. Shame on Florida!

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    "because her yearly income of $9,000 was above the maximum amount to qualify for coverage."

    So this woman was working 3 part-time jobs for a total of 20hrs/week at the minimum wage of $8.50 an hour minimum and it is the governments fault she could not afford her medication and died?

    Sounds to me like she was purposely staying in a low tax bracket to get government subsidies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Irrespective of the rights or wrongs of Obamacare, as a country, the US should be ashamed that a citizen dies because of a lack of ability to pay for medication

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    This has always been the Republican plan for controlling federal health care costs: to simply hope the poor die before they're 65 and can't be denied Medicare anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Yet they will bail out a failing financial organisation like Enron, Fanny May etc and they owed Billions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I'm also one of those people in the coverage gap. No insurance for me! Also, I have no dental and I can't even pay for a dental cleaning because laws require me to get x-rays, which I don't want and can't afford.

    Healthcare reform was a colossal failure for all involved. The only real solution was to revoke the charters of all insurance companies and force them to reincorporate as non-profits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Rick Scott was co-founder and CEO of Columbia/HCA in the 1990s, when the FBI launched a massive, multi-state investigation that led to the company pleading guilty to criminal charges of overbilling the government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Just because they do not allow you to shed your responsibility over your student loans does not mean they are an object of your disgust.
    America is not in decline. Your country is in decline.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Ms Dill's income was 9,000 dollars p.a. and she had 3 dependent children?
    And she did not qualify for Assistance?
    I find that very, very difficult to believe.
    My sympathies to the family, never the less.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    US Republicans really are a disgusting creature. They are also known for the harshest debt law in the world in which they made high interest rate private student loans a debt you can't discharge in bankruptcy no matter how poor the person. No wonder their country is in decline.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    A neutral response: it'll be interesting to see if the screaming matches that will inevitably follow this event will cause anything to change.


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