7QT: Summer Screen Time

Although our weather doesn’t quite feel like summer yet (we had 6 inches of snow a week ago), the kids are in full summer mode, which means eating popsicles, staying up late, and trying to have non-stop computer time.

Last summer, we implemented a checklist in order to make sure our days had some redeeming qualities, amidst the hours of screen time.  It worked so well, I’m implementing it again.  This year I’m trying to hold them to the American Association of Pediatrics’ recommendation for no more than 2 hours* of screens per day, although some of us can do an hour just in the bathroom!)

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So here, without ado, I present the 7 most common complaints in response to our summer screen time plan.

  1. Our friends can have as much computer time as they want! (I doubt this is true. In fact, I know it’s not true. It just feels true.)
  2. Owen’s been practicing for hours and won’t let any of the rest of us practice! (This one is actually true, and it’s why we now have two pianos.)

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3. I’m doing __________ (swim team/ballet/gymnastics) later, so can that count as my exercise?

 

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(The answer: not if you want to have computer time before you go.)

4. But there’s nothing to read!

 

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5. But the house is already clean! (Ummm….. no.)

6. There’s nothing to make! (How about breakfast? Or lunch? Or dinner?)

7. But I’m so booooooooooored! (Actually no one uses this one, because when you’re bored at our house, it means you get to clean the bathroom.)

What does summer screen time look like for you?  Are you texting your kids in the bathroom to tell them to slide the iPad out under the door?

Go check out Kelly @ This Ain’t the Lyceum for more Quick Takes!

*update: I had originally write 1 hour (the AAP recommendation for 2-5 years olds.)  My children were so mad about this that actually went and looked up the recommendation for themselves.  It’s two hours per day of any kind of screen, for children older than 5. And no screens in the bedrooms, because they’ve been shown to interfere with sleep.

 

Good Mother’s Day Reading

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In case you don’t know what to do between your breakfast in bed and your pedicure (or caulking the bath tub and putting away the twenty-two loads of laundry that are waiting to be folded) I have two excellent posts for you to read!

The first is by my amazing friend Renee, who writes about the day she stopped judging her son’s birth mom.

The second is by Simcha Fischer who writes a suggestion for the priest who is wondering who to navigate the minefield of the Mother’s Day sermon. (Good reading, even if you’re not a priest.)

And not a post, but… if you have an extra half-hour in your day, you might enjoy this Mother’s Day episode from The Middle.

Summary of our 2016-7 curriculum

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This year, our kids were in 3rd, 7th, 8th and 11th grades. Our curriculum isn’t determined by those grade levels, but I list them here so you have a rough idea of who the audience is. We have 4 days/week at home, and one day in class at a homeschool school sponsored by a local charter school. My kids take mostly enrichment classes there (think Art, Music, Drama) with a few academic exceptions, but I don’t rely on it for our core subjects (reading, writing, math, history, science).

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History:

Spines:

  • Genevieve Foster: The World of Columbus and Sons
  • Genevieve Foster: The World of Captain John Smith

This is the first year we’ve made it through two entire Foster books in one school year. I chalk that up to age (the children’s, not mine) and consistency. It’s amazing how much more we can get through at 16, 14, 12 and 9 than we could at 8, 6, 4 and 2. That said, I wish I had emphasized regular narrations (written) for retention.

Additional history read-alouds:

  • Castle (Macauley)
  • Who Was Ferdinand Magellan? (Kramer)
  • Mansa Musa (Burns)
  • Longitude (Sobel)- (this one was a hit with 8th and 11th grades and NOT a hit with 3rd and 7th grades)
  • The Queen’s Promise: An Elizabethan Alphabet (Davidson Mannis)
  • The Pirate Meets the Queen: an Illustrated Tale (Faulkner)
  • Johann Gutenberg and the Amazing Printing Press (Koscielniak)
  • Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama (Bass)

3rd, 7th and 8th also did two biographies on historical persons of their choice. (3rd: Aaron Burr and Hillary Clinton, 7th: Isabella of Castille and Mozart, 8th: Einstein and Abraham Lincoln). 11th grade participated in National History Day through his school.

The election

2016 was a fascinating year to learn about our electoral system. We used CNN10 (formerly CNN Student News) and Syd Sobel’s Presidential Elections and Other Cool Facts, and we mapped the electoral college on election night.

Geography

We study and color maps and talk about historical changes between political boundaries in the history we study vs. how countries are now.

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Areas we studied: England, UK, Europe, North Africa, Central America and the Caribbean

We also kept a globe in the living room and hung a world map in the kitchen. We referred to them all the time, which was a vast improvement over our geography study in previous years.

Literature:

Read-Alouds:

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare)- we assigned parts and read this aloud together
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society (Trenton Lee Stewart)
  • Swallows and Amazons (Arthur Ransome)
  • Greenglass House (Kate Mitford)
  • Raymie Nightengale (diCamillo)
  • daVinci and Michaelangelo (Mike Venezia)
  • Flush (Hiaasen)
  • Kira-Kira (Kadohata)
  • Echo (Munoz Ryan)
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Robinson)
  • Unfinished Angel (Creech)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare)- we read this in parts, and each of us memorized a speech made by a character we read.
  • lots of older picture books (think Bill Peet, Dr. Seuss, Margaret Wise Brown, Mary Ann Hoberman, Cynthia Rylant and others) and new picture books we enjoyed, including the Zorro series by Goodrich

Everyone read other books independently every day. I’ll post on some of their favorites in a separate post.

Poetry

Jack Prelutsky, Shel Silverstein, Maggie Dietz’s Pluto, Lewis Carrol’s Jaberwocky, GK Chesterton’s The Donkey, Rachel Field’s Something Told the Wild Geese, Carl Sandberg’s Fog

I feel like we started strong with poetry and then fell off the wagon in the second semester (with a slight boost during April, National Poetry Month.)

Bible:

1 Timothy, James, 1 Peter, Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree (now available as Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas), The Gospel of Mark.

Picture Study:

Picture Study is a Charlotte Mason subject. In the past we’ve been more thorough in our study, but this year we looked at the paintings 1-2 days a week, we played I Spy with them, and we reproduced a few of them. I saw it mostly as a way to familiarize the children with styles of art, and to enjoy the individual painting themselves. We didn’t put a lot of effort on this subject, but we got a big bang for our buck. I bought our post-cards from Memoria Press. We have their Kindergarten, First and Second Grade sets of postcards. I pulled these paintings from all three sets.

Titus as a Monk (Rembrandt), Five o’clock Tea (Mary Cassatt), The Stone Breakers (Courbet), Paris Street: Rainy Day (Caillebotte), Still Life with Apples and Oranges (Cezanne), Three Musicians (Picasso), The Goldfish (Matisse), A Girl with a Watering Can (Renoir), The Fighting Temeraire (Turner), Rain, Steel and Speed: The Great Western Railway (Turner), Golden Eagle (Audubon), Starry Night over Rhone (Van Gogh), God Creates Adam from the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel (Michelangelo), The Last Supper (da Vinci), View of Paris from Montmartre (Dufy), The Thinker (Rodin), The Peaceable Kingdom (Hicks), Tree of Life (Tiffany), Umbrellas in the Rain (Prendergast), The Little Owl and (Durer).

A special day of Picture Study was when we visited the Masterworks Exhibit at the medical school- a collection of amazing paintings and sculptures collected by some physicians on the faculty. It was a great exhibit in a very intimate setting.

Field Trips:

Reykjavik, Iceland

London: The British Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court, The Tower of London, Greenwich including the Cutty Sark museum, Harry Potter’s World.

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Concerts and Plays- In the Heights, Wicked, The Proms (Mozart and Bruckner).

Other field trips: skiing, the DAM (The Art of Venice, and Star Wars Costumes), Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Kindness

Videos

  • Nature’s The World Without Amphibians
  • CNN10 (10 minutes of non-partisan middle-school appropriate news)
  • This Day in History
  • Crash Course History with John Green

Math:

  • 3rd grade: Singapore Primary 3A/3B
  • 7th Grade: Singapore NEM 1
  • 8th Grade: Singapore NEM 2
  • 11th grade: AP Calculus BC through Pennsylvania Homeschoolers

Foreign Language:

  • 7th grade French:
  • 7th/8th grades: Spanish through our once a week school
  • 11th grade: Latin: translating Julius Caesar through Memoria Press’s Online Academy, and the National Latin Exam
  • 11th Grade: Biblical Greek 1 through Memoria Press’s Online Academy

Science:

  • 7th and 11th grades: Environmental Science through our once a week school
  • 7th and 8th grades: Focus on Middle School Physics (Keller)
  • 3rd Grade: Real Science-4-Kids Physics (Keller)

Additional classes for our 11th grader:

US Government (fall semester): de Toqueville: Democracy in America; Hamilton, Madison and Jay: The Federalist Papers. Various: The U.S. Constitution, readings drawn from The Washington Post and The Economist, satire from Stephen Colbert, SNL, Trevor Noah and Seth Meyers.

This class focused on the set-up of the US government and the checks and balances put in place. Additionally, we spent a lot of time talking about the tensions between states’ rights and a strong federal government.

AP Comparative Governments and Politics (spring semester):

For this class, I combined several of the online class syllabi available at the College Board. His spine was Introduction to Comparative Politics: Political Challenges and Changing Agendas (Kesselman, Krieger and Joseph). (They’re changing the class for 2018, so make sure to check in before you design your curriculum.)

Other readings included:

  • Baer: The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower
  • Schell: Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the 21st Century
  • Fukuyama: Women and the Evolution of World Politics
  • Friedman: The Lexus and the Olive Tree
  • Marx: The Communist Manifesto
  • Machiavelli: The Prince
  • Dahl: On Democracy
  • Economist special editions on Russia, Nigeria, Mexico, China, UK, Brexit, and Iran
  • Preston and Dillon: Opening Mexico: The Making of a Democracy
  • Breaking the Cycle of Electoral Violence in Nigeria (pdf)
  • Special Hearing on instability in Nigeria (pdf)
  • Zakaria: The Rise of Illiberal Democracy (from Foreign Affairs, pdf)
  • Lots of news online (esp. The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, and the BBC)

I think this was his favorite class, despite (or because of?) the heavy reading load. The readings (I got all of them from the AP site and my amazing dad) were excellent, and with the unfortunate instability in many parts of the world, it made for a fascinating class.

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Coloring in the Electoral College Map on November 8, 2016.

Introduction to Grant Writing

He had an opportunity to be work on writing grants for a non-profit run by friends of ours. We used two books as introductory spines:

  • O’Neal-McElrath: Winning Grants Step by Step: The Complete Workbook for Planning, Developing and Writing Successful Proposals
  • Karsh: The Only Grant-Writing Book You’ll Ever Need

We also reviewed other grant applications from a variety of sources.

This class was a huge stretch for him and not an unqualified success. By no means did his drafts of the grant proposals go in without major editing, but it was a great opportunity for him to have to think about writing within very specific constraints.

His (and my) favorite part of the class with the non-profit he worked with, Foster Source, which provides support, practical help, and education for local foster families. He had an opportunity to provide child care, meet amazing foster families, and learn about the incredible (and often invisible) needs right in front of us. We will continue to be involved with this great organization even after his class is done.

Other writing for him this year included a major paper for National History Day, and completing NaNoWriMo in November.

All right, that’s all for this year. For previous years’ curricula, please see my pages (links by year, at the top of the blog.)

7QT: the April blur

One: I can hardly remember back to Lent, even though we’re not a full two weeks into Easter.  I know I totally stank at my Lenten disciplines (does that mean I picked the right ones, since they drove me right into an awareness of my need for grace?). Instead, I spent every spare minute studying for my board exam.

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Two: my friend Lori came to hang out with my kids during my exam.  (Excellent, but then I wanted to be with them the whole time!)  I should have the results just in time to register for the October exam again if I failed.

Three: One day while I was studying at Starbucks, a dog came in and got a puppiccino.  Apparently this is a thing.  And she liked it. A lot.

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Four: I had a list of things as long as my arm that I’d put off whilst studying (think showering, cleaning, cooking, exercising, answering emails, and all the other work sundries that I wouldn’t let spill into our homeschooling time).  When I finished, however, I spent a week just reading novels because I was so fried.  This week I managed to drag on some clothes, do yoga twice, and put up our Easter tree.

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Five: meanwhile, life marched on.  The girls had a dance performance at school.  Here’s Phoebe as Little Red [Riding Hood] and Moriah as a wolf (she’s the one in the furry legwarmers and scary make-up- second from the right):

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Six: This week I am finally finding my groove again, though Sam traveled to the middle-of-nowhere FEMA training site to learn how to protect us all from Ebola.

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Don’t you feel safer now?

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They seem to be having a little too much fun.

Seven: Tuesday I got to watch my friends’ 11-month old.  He loves Moriah, so she did a bunch of the baby-toting, and to be honest, he slept a lot.  But when he was awake, I spent most of time trying to figure out how to baby-proof my kitchen.  It involved a lot of rubber bands and kitchen tools to prop open drawers.

Baby-proofing:
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What’s going on in your neck of the woods?  Hopefully no Ebola.  Check out Kelly for more Quick Takes!

Daybook: April

Outside my window: Spring.  [Sigh.]  I love spring.  I love the birds’ return and the tulips (both the ones in the garden and the ones I brought inside) and all the trees. I love our hens’ fresh eggs and the neighbors’ wind chimes.

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This is my neighbor’s crabapple tree, but this year it appears to be half-apple (on the bottom) and half-crabapple (on the top).

In the kitchen: Last night we had a Sabbath feast with friends visiting from far away. This week (for Holy Week) we’re planning a lot of soups- butternut squash, black bean with lime, white bean chili, rosemary potato.  Do you eat differently during Holy Week?

 

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In the school room: We finished our standardized testing last week, so this week we return you to our regular programming.  The younger kids are working on reports, Jonah is finishing up his AP content and working on review, and I’m studying for my Boards (on Friday).  I’m also hoping we can make it to this art exhibit at the medical school this week.

On my reading table: I’m deep in Girl in Translation (Jean Kwok). So good.

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In my shoes: I’m starting to run a little more.  And my runs are starting to feel like runs-with-a-little-walking, instead of walks-with-a-little-running.  I’m sure I’d go faster if I weren’t stopping to taking photos of blooming trees every ten feet.

Grateful: For Holy Week.  For a great Children’s Church yesterday, despite confusion about when we were excused from the service and who was supposed to be helping me (and for KC, who stepped in).

For Phoebe’s yoga classes she’s been teaching in my room at night: very relaxing. (She’s using these Yoga Pretzel cards to prepare her class.)

For friends who have visited us these past ten days and blessed us with their humor, their wisdom, their courage and their tears.

For Facetime with Fiji.

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Praying for: Egypt.  Syria. Refugees, and those who minister among them. The Neals and Simons.  Mandy, Judy, Anne, Dave, Christine, Lori, Ruth, Gill, Betsy.  My patients.  Those wondering when ICE will knock on their doors.  Patience and grace at home.  Courage to stand with the hurting.

May you have a holy week of walking with the Lord.  I’ll be back in this space after Easter.

7QT: Spring break

This week was our spring break, so most of our time was spent pretending the children weren’t playing video games and watching bad Disney TV.  But I have a few photos to share.

One: Last weekend was Mo’s contemporary dance show, which involved transporting large numbers of costumes from the studio to the theater, and large amounts of dancing and portable snacks.  Not my strong suit.

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Sorry for the blurry photo, but it’s actually hard to take photos in the dark.

Two: After the performance, we drove up to the mountains, where spring has hit for real.  The aspen trees are blooming (I didn’t know they did that, actually. Who knew?) and the snow in places was like mashed potatoes.  But still, skiing beats not skiing.

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Three: The day all four of us skied, Phoebe spent the morning saying she wanted to go home.  We talked her into eating lunch on the mountain, and then she spent the afternoon racing us all down the hill. We are calling it a case of severe hypoglycemia-induced orneriness.

She was determined to ski her first black diamond, so we ended up on this horrible moguly run that had me frightened for her.  But when she saw a shortcut off it to the run next door (as it were), she stood up and skied bumpity bump off the mogul run, leaving me trying to catch up.  She did her first black without event, and then ran into a fire extinguisher getting out of the pool later and gave herself a huge egg on her head.

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Four:  I’m not normally into movies, but this week we watched several.  First, we saw Hidden Figures.  What a great film.  How come I had never heard of these awesome women before?  (Because they’re black, that’s why. Our country is so messed up.)  The movie was great.

Five: Then we watched Wag the Dog, a 1997 comedy. (IMDb’s description: Shortly before an election, a spin-doctor and a Hollywood producer join efforts to fabricate a war in order to cover up a presidential sex scandal.)  It’s rated R, but without graphic visuals on anything.  The dialogue moves quickly and is so cynical.  The commentary on our political scene is prescient.  Who knew I’d ever be missing George W?  Next up: Dave.

Six: And because one dark comedy isn’t enough, then we watched Dr. Strangelove or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb, a 1964 comedy about the insanity of the Cold War and fluoridation.

Seven: Now we’re headed down the mountain a day early, hoping to beat the storm that’s promising to freeze all the flowers on our peach tree.

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Somehow the tree survived last year’s freeze.  And despite what I thought in 8th grade, we all survived the Cold War.  Here’s hoping.

How the AHCA and Trump budget are addressing the decreased US life expectancy

Perhaps you saw a recent report from the CDC that the life expectancy for the US went down for the first time in decades.  The top seven causes of death for adults remained the same, although many of them became more common in 2016.

Let’s look at how president Trump’s proposed budget will address each of these conditions which are the seven top killers of American adults.

  1. Heart disease.  Heart disease causes 1 in 4 American deaths.  While it can strike persons of any age, it is most common in adults over 50.

While we have effective medications to treat heart disease, I have multiple patients who struggle to make ends meet every month.  When it’s a choice between medicine and food, my patients choose food.  These are hardworking men and women who have years before retirement, years before they will be eligible for the Medicare benefits they’ve been paying for their entire working lives.

How will the American Health Coverage Act (AHCA) affect those with heart disease?  First, it will substantially increase premiums for those whom heart disease is most likely to affect.  The AARP Policy Institute estimates that health insurance premiums will rise 13% for Americans ages 50-59, and 22% for 60-64 year olds.  For a 64 year old making $25,000, premiums are estimated to rise from $1,700/yr to $14,600/yr.  While sticker shock over that increase might not be enough to cause a heart attack, trying to cover the premiums might be enough to make the cost of life-saving medication out of reach.

2 and 3. Cancer and Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease (COPD and emphysema). While most cancer and COPD/emphysema is attributable to lifestyle causes (tobacco, diet and lack of exercise), as many as 10,000 cancer deaths a year are caused by exposure to environmental pollutants, like air pollution. 

Lung disease is one of the few causes of death that did not claim more lives than usual in 2016.  While most of that decrease in lung disease-related deaths is from decreases in smoking over the past twenty years, some of it is be attributable to the decrease in environmental pollutants.  Instead of capitalizing on the momentum of recent gains in air quality, this administration’s budget guts funding for the EPA whose regulation has been responsible for much of the improvement in our air quality.  Let’s give Beijing a run for its money.

4. Accidents and suicide.  Accidents (including overdoses) and suicides, especially among middle aged white men, were a major driver of the increased mortality in 2016.  Specifically, men aged 45-64 have had a 43% increase in suicide over the last 15 years.  Heroin overdoses have increased 20% from 2014-2015.

Despite the appalling increase in suicides and overdoses in the past few years, the AHCA removes the guarantees for equal mental health and substance abuse in the 31 states that expanded Medicaid coverage under the ACA.  But that only affects 19.7 million Americans suffering with substance abuse and more than 40 million American adults with mental health issues, so why should the AHCA provide care for them?

5. Stroke.  Stroke is another killer that is most common in adults over 50, although a third of hospitalizations for stroke occur in adults younger than 65.  According to the CDC, stroke costs the United States an estimated $33 billion each year in health care services, medicines to treat stroke, and missed days of work.  Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability in the US.

The AHCA includes a provision to penalize anyone with a lapse of coverage (say, because of having to stop work because of a stroke) with a 30% surcharge on the cost of their policy.  Additionally, because of the high proportion of disability among stroke survivors, Medicare is a major insurance provider for stroke survivors.  The CBO estimates that the AHCA will make Medicare insolvent four years earlier than its current projected demise under Obamacare.  The AHCA is one more reason (in a long list) to pray you don’t have a stroke.

 6. Alzheimer’s Disease.  We should be okay on Alzheimer’s disease because we know the cause and have effective treatment for this disease that … wait, scratch that.  We don’t know how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, nor do we have a single effective therapy to reverse the losses of Alzheimer’s disease or to stop its progress.

The Trump budget proposes a 20% cut in NIH funding, so don’t hold your breath on finding a cure any time soon for the 5 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

7. Diabetes and chronic kidney disease (CKD).  28.9 million Americans live with diabetes, and the disease disproportionately affects ethnic minorities.  Diabetes and hypertension, both chronic diseases, are the top two causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD).  Both diabetes and CKD are major contributors to heart attack and stroke risk, but appropriate treatment for diabetes and hypertension can delay- or prevent altogether-  many cases of CKD.

The US has a shocking disparity between rural and urban care for chronic diseases including diabetes, hypertension and CKD.  While Medicaid expansion under Obamacare sought to increase access to care in rural areas, nearly two-thirds of people without insurance lived in states that did not choose to expand Medicaid. Likewise, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 51% of rural workers had employer-sponsored health insurance, as opposed to 57% in urban areas.  The combination of these two factors leaves 14% of the rural population (as opposed to 9% of the urban population) without access to affordable insurance coverage, and this is despite the ACA.

Here is a map of the states that expanded their Medicaid coverage under the ACA (blue states expanded Medicaid; orange states did not).  Thanks, Kaiser Family Foundation for the map.

Since 2010, 80 rural hospitals have closed in the US.  The National Rural Health Association estimates that by 2020, 25% of rural hospitals will have closed. Closing a hospital not only affects the health of that community and its surrounding area, but often eliminates the one of the largest employers in that region, throwing hundreds of people out of work.  For kicks, let’s look at the map of where rural hospitals have closed since 2010 (courtesy of Rural Health Research Program and Slide Share):

Rural Hospital Closures*: 57 Closures from January 2010-Present August 24, 2015 6 August 24, 2015 Created using SmartDraw®

I’m no geography genius, but there seems to be a lot of overlap between the orange parts of the top map (no Medicaid expansion) and the dots on the lower map (closed rural hospitals).

The AHCA makes no effort to address these disparities in care, or to improve the survival chances of rural hospitals.  A market-based health care exchange leaves out rural markets.  If Congress is so determined to improve the ACA, they should at least make some effort to improve the one real defect in the ACA, which is the persistent lack of rural health care access, especially in areas where Medicaid was not expanded under the ACA.

I give Congress and the Trump budget proposal and F on health care so far.  Empty words have their place (obviously, since that’s how the 2016 election was won) but when it comes to the health of our country, gutting recent gains in health care access under Medicaid expansion and removing the budget for disease research is all bad.