No Oxygen: Our Rural Health Care Crisis

By Mike Espy

Mississippi faces a health care crisis. Too many hardworking people are getting crushed by the rising cost of premiums, copays, and prescription drugs. Our rural hospitals are closing. Protections for people with pre-existing conditions are at risk. And new coronavirus cases and deaths continue to rise.

In light of all this, I wanted to share my personal health care story with you.

Watch my personal health care story, “No Oxygen.”

I was born with chronic asthma, and when I was about five or six years old, one day I had an asthma attack so bad I began to become comatose. The story goes that my father picked me up, threw me over his shoulder, and ran me to the hospital. Back in those days, there was no ambulance or EMT service in a Black neighborhood like mine. There was nobody you could call.

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I was born a twin. Michelle was perfectly healthy, I came out a little bit ill.

We finally got to the hospital — but there was no oxygen. While nurses prayed by my bedside, my father ran to the “white-only” hospital a few blocks away. He begged for a canister of oxygen to save his dying son, and they gave it to him. Because of my father’s heroic actions and the rural hospitals, I’m here with you today.

That was 60 years ago. Mississippi has made a lot of progress in the past 60 years, yet our health care system is still in crisis. Health care is not equal. We have failed our rural hospitals and our rural communities because we can’t guarantee affordable and accessible health care.

That’s why my top priority in the Senate is to finally expand Medicaid in states like Mississippi, where health insurance and access to rural health care can make the difference between life and death.

So, I’m asking if you can share your health care story. I want to hear about a time when you struggled to access the care you or a loved one needs. The more we talk about these issues, the more pressure we’ll build around the dire need for more accessible, affordable health care.

In a few sentences, please tell me your health care story by sharing it with us here.

I am dedicated to expanding Medicaid in Mississippi. We need it. We should have had it a decade ago. And when I get to the U.S. Senate, I’m going to be the one to bring it here.

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