McDowell County, West Virginia is in the heart of coal country. Coal production has significantly decreased in past decades, and machines have replaced manual labor. A whole demographic has found themselves without jobs, without alternatives and without hope. At age 64, McDowell County residents have the lowest life expectancy of any county in the United States.
Trump campaigned hard in West Virginia. He promised to bring back jobs by upping coal production. To be fair, he has taken a step toward that goal. In February, the Senate voted 54 to 45 to reverse the Stream Protection Rule, which sought to protect waterways from debris generated by surface mining. Less regulations mean more production regardless of the environmental ramifications.
Trump’s promises worked: miners desperate for work voted for him in droves and he won WV by almost 68 percent.
On Sunday, All In With Chris Hayes and Bernie Sanders came to McDowell County to discuss poverty and health care in a town hall meeting.
At one point, Chris Hayes asked a coal miner how much he has paid attention to the president and the direction things are going. The man replies:
I voted for him, only, solely because he said he was going to help us. He was going to put the coal miners back to work and we’re going to have health care. We need health care. Everyone in this room needs free health care.
Sadly, with the implementation of “Trumpcare,” many of these people will no longer receive Medicaid as of 2020. The Medicaid extension under the ACA that allowed people just over the poverty line to receive help will be phased out.
Rural clinics will also be phased out. As of right now with ACA subsidies, states can afford to run and staff more clinics because the government matches the state’s Medicaid costs. This is vital for lower-economic, inaccessible rural areas.
Judy, a meeting participant, spoke a bit about Black Lung Disease and the importance these clinics play.
We have these health clinics that treat these miners with this Black Lung Disease and here it’s very needed. That is mostly funded by the Affordable Care Act. That will go.
Later, Bernie discussed what the loss of funding will be like in real terms:
In WV…if Obamacare is repealed, we are looking at hundreds of thousands of people who got the medicaid extension. Losing that, how many of those folks will die?
This is a death sentence for many people in areas around the country like McDowell County. They truly cannot afford the alternative to “Obamacare.”
This meeting could be seen as simple Sanders rhetoric – trying to pander his agenda to frustrated voters. However, we know Bernie to be the man he says he is: unquestionably for the people. Unfortunately, this meeting was a lesson to the Trump voters of West Virginia (and other places like WV) that by blindly hoping for something different, they only hurt themselves further.
Watch Chris Hayes ask one particular miner why he voted for Donald Trump. In the following clip, he cites Trump’s campaign promises of jobs and healthcare.