Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Balancing the Budget by Taking from the Poor

Medicaid is the primary, and often only, healthcare for 50 million Americans who are disabled, brain-injured, young, elderly, pregnant and poor.Without Medicaid, their life expectancies are shortened, and their lives are more painful and measurably difficult.

It's richly ironic that the Republican party, which tries to lay exclusive political claim to Christian values, is determined to underfund and virtually eliminate compassion for the hurting, poor, homeless and hungry. I wonder what they think Jesus asked them to do in His teachings?

I wonder....what would Jesus do?


From the Center for American Progress....

As President Bush toured the country trying to hoodwink Americans into dismantling their own Social Security system, right-wing leaders in Congress took the lead in passing the president's other priority-a $10 billion cut to Medicaid, the nation's premiere health program for low-income Americans. State legislatures and governors have now outlined the grisly details of these cuts proposing significant out-of-pocket health expenses for the poor coupled with new limitations and restrictions on health services. Why are conservatives picking on the most vulnerable Americans?

Somebody has to pay for conservatives' gross fiscal mismanagement and massive handouts to wealthy. Right-wing leaders have cleared the way for $106 billion in new tax cuts for those at the top, massive tax breaks for oil and gas interests, and a gaping giveaway for corporations to bring off-shore profits back into the states virtually tax free. Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) summed up these priorities quite appropriately: "[T]o balance the federal budget off the backs of the poorest people in the country is simply unacceptable. You don't pull feeding tubes from people. You don't pull the wheelchair out from under the child with muscular dystrophy."

Conservatives count on the poor not voting, hoping no one will notice if they take away basic health care from a couple hundred thousand low-income Americans. Needing someway to cover their tracks on these misplaced priorities, our nation's conservative leaders decided to target the poor-the group with the least amount of political power and lobbying clout. Now, facing mounting budget pressures, states are reacting in harsh ways: Tennessee is planning to drop more than 300,000 people from its Medicaid rolls, while Missouri is cutting off 90,000. New Hampshire yesterday became the first state in the nation to make the poorest of the poor pay for their coverage. Expect more states to follow suit in the near future.

Progressives want to improve Medicaid the right way by lowering drug prices, expanding small business health insurance pools, and containing costs without hurting beneficiaries. Plenty of options exist to improve Medicaid's performance without cost shifting to states or reducing coverage for people in need. A report by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured reveals that all fifty states and the District of Columbia enacted some form of cost-containment measures in response to the rising cost of Medicaid in the past two years. Other progressive solutions include basic drug reimportation programs, multi-state prescription purchasing pools, and small business health insurance pools.

No comments: