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Shaq Reminds Us That Sometimes Celebrities Do Awesome Things With Their Money

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shutterstock_681421__1373050916_142.196.156.251Shaquille O’Neal has plans to open a free children’s hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sometimes celebrities do amazing things with their money.

At the end of June, Shaq was being inducted into the Louisiana Hall of Fame when he decided to make an impromptu announcement about his plans for the hospital:

“I wasn’t supposed to announce this, but I’m going to do it anyway,” Dr. O’Neal said. “I had a talk with the powers that be in Baton Rouge, and my plan is to build a Shaquille O’Neal children’s hospital. That’s my plan, so that right now is in the works, and hopefully it gets done. ”

Dr. O’Neal said the idea has been discussed for two years, and his goal is to join with Our Lady of the Lake “to build the biggest, freest hospital in the state of Louisiana.”

“All sick children can come for free,” he said. “That’s my vision.”

I wish we lived in a place where some children didn’t have to count on the kindness of strangers to get medical attention. We don’t yet – but maybe someday we will. Until that time, I’m glad there are wealthy people like Shaq, who understand what an impact their wealth can make.

Dr. O’Neal’s announcement couldn’t come at a better time for Louisiana. Faced with budget shortfalls, the state has cut funding to hospitals by $260 million dollars in recent years, according to testimony by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley during the legislative session in May.

Such funding cuts have led Gov. Bobby Jindal — who has continued to reject federal Medicaid expansion that would provide the state more immediate dollars under the Affordable Care Act, citing the law’s inflexibility — to seek private sources of funding for many of the state’s public hospitals.

Politicians who have no problem refusing children necessary medical coverage really make my stomach turn. As long as they exist, and as long as people still consider necessary medical coverage for children – aka Medicaid – a handout, we will continue to need private sector funding for things like this. I’m glad people like Shaq exist: people who are willing part with their money to provide necessary services that so many people in our country cannot afford.

(photo: Karen Struthers/ Shutterstock)