Forgotten Voices: How cutting Medicaid, ACA will affect healthcare in this rural town

(NBC News) Whitesburg, Kentucky, population 1,900, is Trump country.

Eight out of ten voters there voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, but now they’re hoping he won’t get rid of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

Half the patients at the town clinic are on Medicaid. Kentucky is one of 31 states that expanded it under the Affordable Care Act.

The influx of money paid for new staff, new clinics, and more hours.

All of it will be gone if Washington cuts Medicaid and fails to renew funding for community clinics.

“100 employees will be laid off. Four clinics will be closed. 12 school based clinics will be stopped,” says Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation CEO Mike Caudill.

They can’t afford that. Appalachia is the epicenter of poor health. Heart disease, cancer and diabetes are all worse there than most of the nation.

When Kentucky expanded Medicaid, not only did it bring a new influx of patients, but it changed how they do health care. Suddenly people weren’t just coming to the doctor when they were sick.

“Now with expanded insurance coverage, we are able to get people in for preventative care,” says dentist Dr. Rebecca Cook.

Still, not everyone here is thrilled about tax payer sponsored health care.

“Those that are able to work, they need to get up and go to work,” says clinic patient Carolyn Couch.

Signing up for health insurance under the government’s marketplace exchange is going on right now, but you have less time to make a decision for coverage in 2018 than you did last year. The sign up period ends December 15th.

If your family doesn’t have health insurance from an employer, or already gets it through a federal program like Medicare, the law says you have to sign up for health insurance or pay a fine.

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