Medicaid Isn’t Just for Those Undeserving Poor People   7 comments

That’s the message of several posts (like this one by TPM’s Josh Marshall) I’ve seen pop up recently on lefty blogs. Medicaid, you see, “pays the bill for 66% of all nursing home residents.” And, Josh informs his readers, “these aren’t the indigent – most\many of them are the result of middle-income people who have already run through their own money paying for their nursing home costs, and then become eligible for Medicaid. If Medicaid doesn’t pick that up anymore, who’s left? The children of the residents?”

So Josh cares about Medicaid and thinks his readers should too. But he assumes they won’t care, at least not enough, unless they believe that Medicaid cuts will affect them personally. As long as it’s just poor people suffering and dying because they can’t access medical care, that’s apparently no biggie, but raising the specter of middle class folks burning through their savings to pay for their once-middle-income parents’ nursing home care–now, THAT will get their attention. This isn’t just a case of people caring more about things that hit closer to home. Intentional or not, these posts have the unmistakable ring of “Medicaid isn’t just for those undeserving poor people; GOOD PEOPLE LIKE US could be affected!”

There are several interesting assumptions here. The first, of course, is that the readers of these liberal and progressive blogs are predominantly middle class. It never seems to occur to Josh and the others who have written similar posts that their readership could include a large percentage of poor and working class people. Assuming that they know the demographics of their readers better than I do, this would explain a lot about the focus and allegiances of the major lefty blogs. I mean, who could forget AMERICAblog’s John Aravosis complaining about not getting a stimulus check when he’s barely scraping by on $75,000/year (as a single dude with no kids, no less)? As a person who is REALLY barely scraping by, I feel a profound disconnect from much of the lefty blogosphere, particularly from the major high-traffic blogs. Reading their posts and comments, it’s abundantly clear that most of these people inhabit a world that’s very different from the one I experience every day. It’s also clear that they’re not really talking to people like me, though they sometimes talk about us.

Even more troubling than the exclusion of poor and working class people is the assumption that the supposedly progressive readership of these blogs won’t care about programs like Medicaid if those programs benefit only poor people. What type of progressives are these? Having no children, I don’t qualify for Medicaid (or Medi-Cal as it’s called in California), but that doesn’t stop me from recognizing the program’s lifesaving importance. Inadequate as it is to meet the health care needs of poor and working class people, it’s much better than nothing. I wish I was eligible for Medicaid. My friend who died earlier this year might still be alive if she had been eligible. She ignored early, non-emergency symptoms of what turned out to be cancer, hoping it was nothing serious, because she didn’t have the money to pay for a doctor. By the time her cancer was diagnosed, it had already metastasized.

Some of the “Protect Medicaid” posts also mention the poor and disabled children covered by the program. That’s because poor children, unlike their parents, are usually not held responsible for their dire economic circumstances (at least until they turn 18, at which point they must magically lift themselves out of poverty or they’ll be viewed as losers just like their parents). Able-bodied adults, on the other hand, should be able to fend for themselves. That’s the well-worn theme any time any aid to poor adults is discussed, but it’s never more infuriating than when we are talking about a life-and-death matter like health care.

What exactly are people supposed to do when they’re sick or injured and their minimum wage job doesn’t offer health insurance (or they’re unemployed/underemployed/self-employed and barely making ends meet)? This is not just about preventable deaths from major conditions that would have been treatable if medical attention had been sought sooner, though that’s certainly a critical concern. There’s also the untold suffering caused by relatively minor conditions. For instance, Josh talks about Medi-Cal cutting dental benefits like it’s no big deal. Have you ever fractured a tooth, exposing the nerve, while biting down on something hard? Imagine suffering excruciating pain and not being able to afford treatment. It shouldn’t be necessary to spell this stuff out for progressives.

There’s something very wrong with a progressive movement that needs to be told that Medicaid cuts could impact their bank balance, so they might give a damn about protecting the program. Because apparently the suffering and deaths of people deprived of the opportunity to earn a living wage aren’t enough to make them care. That’s the kind of thinking we usually expect from Republicans.

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7 responses to “Medicaid Isn’t Just for Those Undeserving Poor People

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  1. The Center has moved so far to the Right that what they now call The Far Left is the old Middle. The Progressive Movement seems to have moved on to somewhere else. I think what we see remaining as Lefty Bloggers are centrists hoping that America can survive with some sort of a conscience, so they try to appeal to the idea that employed taxpayers could very easily become unemployed welfare scum through no fault of their own. Appealing to the idea that these programs should be left in place “just in case” they end up in a similar situation.

    Henry David Thorough
  2. The Center has moved so far to the Right that what they now call The Far Left is the old Middle.

    Indeed. Quite a few “progressive” bloggers are guys who, in different times, in times of a more libertarian and less blatantly bigoted, xenophobic and extremist GOP, would have happily been Republicans. Some of them were, in fact, Republicans before they got fed up with the GOP constantly cozying up to religious zealots. And while they may be good on some issues, economic justice typically isn’t a priority for these guys. They’ve never experienced poverty, their friends aren’t poor, and they can’t imagine what it would be like to be poor. I suspect that quite a few of them harbor all kinds of prejudices against poor and working class people; some of that came out during the 2008 Democratic Primary and it was UGLY. Usually, though, they know better than to say this stuff out loud.

    As for elected Dems, the fact that they’re even considering cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security after extending the tax cuts for the rich and making no attempts to put a stop to our endless, mega-costly wars (on the contrary; they’ve brought us more war) is fucking OBSCENE.

  3. Obscene is an understatement.

    I think the idea that the GOP tacked so hard to religious extremists and therefore stranded some of these people to be “Democrats” or “progressives” is almost certainly spot on.

    Economic justice is a hard sell with these guys, and to be fair, I think it is a hard sell with anyone who hasn’t experienced some real monetary hardship.

  4. And on top of this, comes news today that NJ Gov Christie is recommending changes in Medicaid eligibility, cutting a family of 3 down to a maximum $3000/yr to qualify!

    WTF?!?!?!?!

  5. Aeryl. I know! Saw that today and it just blew my mind.

  6. Oh, but it makes perfect sense! Don’t you realize that a family of three raking in $3,100 a year is totally able to purchase private health insurance or pay for medical care out of pocket when they need it?

  7. Ooops, my bad. $5300/yr.

    My insurance premium is going up next month, to cover the requirements of Obama’s Health Whatever Reform, allegedly.

    My new yearly premium? $4800. And I live in KY, which is a hell of a lot fucking cheaper than NJ. But I’m “positive” a family of 3 can live on $500/yr. They get EIC donchaknow!

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