On a sizzling July afternoon, Bob Zellner and Adam O'Neal walked side by side along the shoulder of a state highway in central Virginia. Most of the passing motorists recognized neither the civil rights icon who was mentored by Rosa Parks and Ella Baker nor the Republican mayor of Belhaven, North Carolina.
So why was a conservative like O'Neal taking a two-week protest trek to Washington, D.C., with a self-described radical like Zellner? What could possibly unite these two dissimilar men?
The answer is a species that few realize is now endangered: the American rural hospital. According to a recent report from the University of North Carolina's Sheps Center, 34 rural hospitals have closed since 2013, over 80 percent of them in states that have refused to expand Medicaid. The American Rural Healthcare Association estimates that as many as 283 more hospitals could be forced to close their doors by the end of 2015 if something does not change. Though the total cost to keep the doors open varies by hospital, O'Neal and Zellner argue the money to keep most of them open is already available through the Affordable Care Act. Only the politics of ObamaCare stands in the way.
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