States’ Refusal To Expand Medicaid Is A Great Way To Keep Poor Families Down

begging-hands-poorSeveral states are refusing to expand Medicaid next month, meaning the poorest of poor families may be completely unable to obtain any kind of health insurance. I understand money doesn’t grow on trees and states’ budgets are super tight, but come on, health insurance isn’t like food stamps or subsidized housing. Don’t get me wrong, these programs are important, too. But there are other solutions to food insecurity and homelessness. Move in with a friend. Work at a restaurant. But if you need health insurance and can’t get it, it’s not like your neighbor or mother is going to be able to pay your medical bills.

From the New York Times:

Sandy Praeger, the insurance commissioner of Kansas, said she would help consumers understand their options.

In most cases, she said, adults with incomes from 32 percent to 100 percent of the poverty level ($6,250 to $19,530 for a family of three) ”will have no assistance.” They will see advertisements promoting new insurance options, but in most cases will not learn that they are ineligible until they apply.

Administration officials said they worried that frustrated consumers might blame President Obama rather than Republicans like Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who have resisted the expansion of Medicaid.

And to put it in practical terms, here’s a quote from Jonathan E. Chapman, executive director of the Louisiana Primary Care Association: ”If the breadwinner in a family of four works full time at a job that pays $14 an hour and the family has no other income, he or she will be eligible for insurance subsidies. But if they make $10 an hour, they will not be eligible for anything.”

I used to get all bent out of shape when my husband and I were making just enough to land us right at the cutoff for government aid, specifically Medicaid. Yeah, they have to draw the line somewhere, but why did it have to be there? We were still poor, and it didn’t seem fair that we weren’t quite poor enough to qualify.

Well, this new situation makes me feel like a royal asshat. When I was complaining about our ineligibility for Medicaid, we were having no problem with our basic necessities, and my husband and I were both on career tracks that had the potential for us to earn more down the line. In short, we weren’t thriving, but we were okay.

That’s not the case for families living in poverty. These are the kind of people who will probably earn basically the same hourly wage their entire lives, who may be disabled and cannot work, or who may be responsible for dependent children or disabled family members. What happens when these workers’ children or parents become hurt or ill? It sounds like, without Medicaid, they’re facing bankruptcy, which is just another lock on the door keeping them from overcoming their situation.

This decision enrages me, and it looks like it’s just another ploy to keep the wealth gap exactly as it is.

(photo: Antonov Roman / Shutterstock)

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