Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, January 20, 2006

In Other News . . .

Yeah, yeah, I know there's a lot going on in the world right now. (And by the way, Osama bin Laden is the best friend George W. Bush ever had.*) But we might expect the corporate media to pay at least a little bit of attention to subjects such as major legislation before Congress that will affect the health care and economic welfare of tens of millions of Americans -- and as a matter of fact, in the end, most of us.

I'm talking about the Medicaid bill. The reconciliation will be before the House as soon as they get back to work, and while you can't read about it in the New York Times, or hear anything about it on NPR or the boob tube, you can read about it here, in a summary by Jocelyn Guyer of the Georgeown University Health Policy Insitute.

Frankly, when I first read this, I thought I must be losing my marbles, but evidently it was the conference committee members and staff who were smoking the wacky tobacky. In what Guyer presumes is a drafting error, the bill allows states to charge preganant women below the federal poverty level the full cost of all "non-pregnancy related" services; ditto for all services provided to parents, seniors and people with disabilities. Okay, maybe they didn't really mean that and they'll fix it, but the stuff they did mean is pretty sick. Sickest of all, states can charge elderly and disabled people premiums to enroll in Medicaid, without limit. (Again, they may have intended to cap these at 5% of income but right now, the bill does not do that). And they can charge 10% of the cost of services for children in families between 100% and 150% of poverty, and $3 co-pays for drugs. Same for low-income seniors and people with disabilities. Etcetera.

Well in case you didn't know, the Federal Poverty level for a family of three right now is $1,341 a month. Also in case you didn't know, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in a low rent district of Boston is about $1,000 a month.

What this will mean is simple. If states take advantage of these options, a lot of poor elderly and disabled people will be unable to afford coverage entirely, because they will now have to pay premiums; and many people and families that do have coverage won't be able to afford the co-payments for all the services that they need. And that's the whole point -- to save money by getting people off the roles, and stopping people from using services and buying drugs by putting up financial barriers. The point of doing this to poor children, poor people with disabilities, and poor elderly people, is to pay for tax cuts for rich people and the war in Iraq. And the point of doing that? Why it's to foster a culture of life, of course. It's the Christian thing to do.

*And come to think of it, have you ever seen them together?

1 comment:

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