On health care, Herschel Walker has another embarrassing policy fumble
Health Care

On health care, Herschel Walker has another embarrassing policy fumble

It’s tempting to think the biggest problem with Herschel Walker’s Senate candidacy is his record of lying about his own record. Some might also make the case that the Georgia Republican’s biggest hurdle is his dreadful personal background, including domestic violence — he allegedly threatened to murder his ex-wife — and talk of having a shootout with police.

But just as important is the first-time candidate’s unfamiliarity with the basics of government and public affairs.

As regular readers know, it was a few months ago when Walker tried to share some thoughts on energy policy. It was an embarrassing disaster: As my MSNBC colleague Ja’han Jones put it, Walker “delivered a meandering response that was detached from reality and syntax.”

A month later, the former NFL player reflected on mass shootings in schools, and the resulting word salad was a mess. When Walker tried to talk about voting rights, his comments were even less coherent. His rhetoric on climate change has been nothing short of cringe-worthy.

And then there’s health care.

Atlanta is facing the imminent closure of a large local hospital — a company called Wellstar intends to shutter the Atlanta Medical Center, which would have a dramatic impact on the area — and as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, Walker was asked for his thoughts. The Republican sounded a bit like a student who forgot to do his homework.

In a Fox 5 interview, Republican Senate hopeful Herschel Walker was asked about the imminent closure of the Atlanta Medical Center. “So I think what people need to do first is talk to Wellstar, and see what the problem is, then try to solve that problem,” said Walker. When asked whether he thinks Georgia should expand Medicaid, something that he and other Republicans have opposed in the past, the former football star gave an equally confusing answer.

“I think everyone should be given what we promised to give them,” Walker responded, though I haven’t the foggiest idea what that means in this context.

Look, I realize that health care policy can be complex, especially for someone who’s never worked in government at any level. But on Nov. 1, a major medical institution in Georgia’s largest city is scheduled to permanently close its doors. Walker’s proposal is to “see what the problem is” and then “try to solve that problem.”

Well, yes, I suppose trying to solve problems is a good idea, but this is not the kind of response one should expect from a U.S. Senate candidate who should already have some thoughts on “what the problem is” and how to “try to solve that problem.”

Contrast Walker’s response with the ongoing work from incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and the detailed communications he and his colleagues have had with the health care provider:

“According to Wellstar’s Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) of 2022, AMC and AMC South together made up the largest licensed-bed hospital in the state with 762 beds. The community residents that AMC and AMC South serve are those that consistently experience more barriers to quality health care. The 2022 CHNA found that the community cannot access appropriate levels of care for a variety of reasons, including insurance status and lack of available providers. Additionally, AMC South’s emergency department, according to your own assessment, was one of the busiest in the region before it closed in April 2022. AMC South was also the largest employer in East Point. Wellstar’s announcement about AMC South’s closing last spring stated that in-patient services will be consolidated at AMC in downtown Atlanta. We are extremely concerned about where those patients will go to seek care, if both AMC and AMC South’s emergency department shut their doors.”

As for the Medicaid issue, Warnock and his colleagues added in their communications with Wellstar, “We also understand that Georgia’s refusal to close the Medicaid coverage gap has contributed to the urgency of these issues, forcing hospitals to front the cost of providing care for uninsured and underinsured individuals. We all know that doctors will provide care to individuals that need it, without regard for their ability to pay. We will continue to do our part as Georgia’s federally elected officials to close the coverage gap, but we must ask you to do what you can to keep AMC open.”

Or put another way, Warnock actually seems to understand the issue and its importance. Walker offered an example of the GOP’s post-policy approach to governing.