July 30 marks the 53rd anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, the iconic health programs that have kept millions of Americans out of poverty — and alive — for over half a century now. But it’s a grim birthday, Martha Burk writes, because Republicans have rolled out plans to privatize one and gut the other. Martha reflects this week on what the programs have meant for women especially.

Speaking of health care, we’re taking a close look at how efforts to chip away at the Affordable Care Act are harming health in rural states. Chris Petersen, an Iowa small farmer, writes this week about the importance of protections for people with pre-existing conditions, which the administration is trying to take away. And Andy Spears marvels at Tennessee’s decision to let people barter for their health instead of accepting a cost-free Medicaid expansion.

Also this week, Nicole Braun shares a moving personal essay about another aspect of America’s family separation crisis: the juvenile detention system, which locks tens of thousands of U.S.-born kids away from their parents. Meanwhile, Jim Hightower calls the situation on the border Kafkaesque.

Rounding us out, Jill Richardson reports on the administration’s decision to ignore evidence about the benefits of national monuments in favor of opening them for drilling. And Khalil Bendib thinks the president quacks like a Russian asset.

Finally, this week we mourn the passing of Donald Kaul, a two-time Pulitzer-nominated columnist who wrote thousands of syndicated columns for the Des Moines Register, the Cedar Rapids Gazette, and later on, for us here at OtherWords.

Don’s mordant humor and curmudgeonly kindness made him perhaps the most popular columnist we’ve ever run. This week in OtherWords, my old boss Emily Schwartz Greco — who edited Don for years — reflects on how starstruck Iowans would become when she mentioned that she’d worked with him. Not that any of them could imagine him needing an editor. Don’t miss her column, or the moving obituaries in the Washington Post and Des Moines Register.

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Peter Certo is the editorial manager of the Institute for Policy Studies and the editor of OtherWords.org.