Health Care for the Poor Still Elusive

English: President Barack Obama's signature on...
English: President Barack Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have the Affordable Care Act and we still have literally millions of people who cannot afford and will not have, health care.

How in the world can that be? The Affordable Care Act was supposed to help that very demographic, wasn’t it?

A New York Times article said that nearly two-thirds of poor, black people, and single mothers, in addition to one-half of all low-wage earners, will still not have access to health care. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/03/health/millions-of-poor-are-left-uncovered-by-health-law.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20131003).

The vast number of these people live in states controlled by Republicans, and in which those lawmakers have voted against expanding Medicaid. “The 26 states that have rejected the Medicaid expansion are
home to about half of the country’s population, but about 68 percent of
poor, uninsured blacks and single mothers. About 60 percent of the
country’s uninsured working poor are in those states. Among those
excluded are about 435,000 cashiers, 341,000 cooks and 253,000 nurses’
aides.” said the NYT article.

While some are appalled that so many people will still be unable to get health care, others are not surprised.

Some say that the Affordable Care Act was designed not to help poor black people, or single mothers, or low-wage earners. It was designed, they say, to benefit low wage earners who happen to be white.

It is sadly ironic that the majority of the poor people whom this act was ostensibly created to help are apparently black.  They live primarily in Southern states where, again, Republican lawmakers have balked at extending Medicaid, citing cost.  The American citizens who will still not be able to get health care, many of them, make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough money to keep them above the poverty line, making them eligible to qualify for subsidies, which the ACA is providing.

It is equally as ironic that some lawmakers feel justified in not supporting the expansion of Medicaid because they seem to feel that the poor are poor because they are lazy and want to take advantage of working Americans. There is great disdain for the poor, blaming them for their poverty and spreading this belief so that great numbers of people buy into the hype.  While in one breath, lawmakers will say that in America, democracy makes it possible for “all” people to be successful and therefore, not poor,  in another breath, they will support a system which is not democratic at all, but, rather, oligarchic in nature, supporting the expansion of the very rich on the backs of poor people and their labor.

With these millions of people still unable to get affordable health care, the health of the very poor will still be jeopardized. Children will still be in danger from getting sick and possibly dying from preventable and treatable diseases, and adults will not be able to get the care and medication they need to, likewise, get treatable diseases diagnosed or to get medications that will keep those diseases from killing them.

All of the showboating on television, with Tea Party Republicans saying that they are speaking on behalf of “the American people” has been disturbing and disgusting. “The American people,” for them, obviously do not include poor black and brown people, single mothers, and people unable to make a living wage.

The politicians in Washington are playing a game with the lives of all Americans as they fight like children having temper tantrums, working to defund the Affordable Care Act. It wouldn’t be so troubling if Tea Party Republicans had a viable health care plan in place to replace the ACA, one that would help people like these millions of black, brown and poor people.

They are not concerned with that part of America’s population, though. These politicians are fighting for is a group of people who object to big government and the role big government has historically played in taking care of “the least of these.”  They do not have the slightest concern, say, for the American citizen who needs treatment and medication for high blood pressure, or for the child who has an abscessed tooth, and who happens to be poor.

It is a scary thing to be poor in such a wealthy land. It is scary and troubling and frustrating to work, as the work ethic says we must – and still be deemed unworthy to make a living wage. The government shut-down, forced by the opposition between Tea Party Republicans who are fighting President Obama by opposing the ACA, is making poor people suffer even more as their salaries are being withheld.

Nobody cares about you if you’re poor – not even here in America, where our political system is supposed to be “exceptional” and above that in all other developed countries.  The fact that many Americans are a paycheck away from being put out on the street, should be troubling to a group of people who say they govern for “the American people.”

Apparently, that’s not true. They govern for “some” American people. Black, brown and poor people of all colors, as well as people struggling to make ends meet, just don’t seem to matter. No matter what lofty words are used to describe America’s democratic ideals, her oligarchic reality says that there is a serious chasm between the ideal and the real.

Poor people count. Black and brown people count. Single mothers …count.

Somebody ought to remind Congress of the same because it seems that millions of Americans have been forgotten.

A candid observation…

Entitlements be Damned

With the fiscal cliff debacle hanging over us, I find myself cringing every time I hear the word “entitlements.”

The argument, or part of the argument, as concerns how we get out of our financial crisis, is that the entitlements, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security – are just too expensive and are not sustainable. The Republicans are willing to budge on their desire not to raise taxes for the “wealthy,” IF there are substantial cuts in entitlement spending.

Those entitlements, however, are what help “the least of these.”  I keep wondering what legislators are thinking. How are the poor, the elderly, and those who have worked all their lives and now need Social Security …supposed to live? Because one is poor, is he or she not worthy of being treated with dignity? And because one has grown old, is he or she not “entitled” to expect some financial assistance from the country in which they lived during the days of their youth, working to contribute to its economy?

If spending for Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security is cut, what happens to this broad swath of people who simply need help? Everybody needs help – even the wealthy. The difference between the poor, lower middle class, and for much of the middle middle class and the wealthy is that the wealthy have more resources to pull from when they need help.  The poor have so little access to what they need for quality of life and, frankly, the wealthy are not concerned about them as regards their reality.  If and when a poor person needs help, he or she is often forced to get money from predatory lenders, who charge them exorbitant interest rates. The poor really do not have a chance. They get ensconced in a downward spiral that goes faster and faster…And the wealthy are not concerned.  The wealthy look for ways to make more profits – even if it is from or on the backs of the poor – and too often turn a deaf ear toward the cries of those who are suffering.

I read a story about a woman who had worked all her life, in a job where there were no benefits, including health insurance. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/28/gop-obamacare-medicaid_n_2347933.html) She began to feel poorly, but would not go to a doctor because she could not afford it.  She began to look up home remedies, and tried some of what she read, but eventually, not even the home remedies helped. She collapsed on her job and was taken to an emergency room, where it was discovered that the had high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.  The doctor asked her why she had waited so long to get help.

The insensitivity to the plight of the poor and the working poor is phenomenal.

Following this episode, she was able to get Medicaid, and was able to get the medicine she needs to keep her alive, but recently, her Medicaid allotment was reduced because of a state policy that said persons receiving it can only make a certain amount of money; this woman made over that amount, and so her benefits were slashed. Now, she is in the dangerous place of not being able to afford her medicine; the money she makes is just enough for her to pay her rent and utilities.  The article said she is feeling bad again; the fluid is accumulating in her chest again, and her blood pressure is no doubt going up.

Hers is not the only story like this. The elderly, many of them, are not doing much better. It is heartbreaking to think about the elderly who worked all their lives and who now are malnourished because they cannot afford to pay their rent AND buy food. There is something terribly wrong with the way people think – or don’t think – about those who suffer.

And yet, the Conservative hard-liners insist that the aid these people receive are “entitlements” and should be slashed. The very word “entitlement” brings up negative feelings. Anytime anyone says that someone thinks he or she is “entitled” to something, there is a negative undertone that accompanies it. Slash spending, the Conservatives rail, on these dratted entitlements. Former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that 47 percent of Americans think they are “entitled” to help from the government. The attitude is one of distrust  and disdain; the implication is there that the poor and working poor are where they are because of some deficit in their characters.

Ironically, there is a lot of money in poor people; maybe that’s why the wealthy are not so concerned about them. The poor need and want to work, and have been willing, in the past and in the present, to work under horrible conditions for paltry pay. The poor are then penalized for being poor; they pay higher – the highest – interest rates on purchases they make. The wealthy take advantage of them and others who are not so steeped in how America’s financial system works. How else do we explain the antics of mortgage companies, who made millions, maybe billions, off people who were lured into getting mortgages they could not afford?

The attitude seems to be “let them eat cake” while the wealthy go blithely on their way, looking for more and more ways to make more and more money. Meanwhile, many of those same people want the spending on defense to be left alone or perhaps be increased. The stated reason is that we, the United States, need that money to defend ourselves, but the wars we have been engaged in since President Bush got us into them had nothing to do with defending ourselves. The massive spending, causing much of our current indebtedness, was done not to defend America, but to get America in a place where it could dip into and be a part of the huge profits that are available in the oil in the Middle East. By all means, spend money to make more money. It is not good business to spend money on that which loses money – and poor people make the government lose money, they would posit.

The wealthy think they are “entitled” to make more money. That’s what business is, and long ago, President Calvin Coolidge said that the “business of America…is business.”  They poor  and  the elderly are not “entitled” to quality of life, not entitled to help from the country they helped prosper.

That is a really sad commentary on America and its “values.”

A candid observation …

Affordable Care Act Overdue

HR3590-Patient-Protection-and-Affordable-Care-...
HR3590-Patient-Protection-and-Affordable-Care-Act_1 (Photo credit: Obama For America – California)

Sarah Palin is probably right: the passage of the Affordable Care Act by the United States Supreme Court will mobilize the Tea Party Conservatives, and probably others.

The presidential election will be fierce and fiery, more negative than it might have been had the High Court struck down the law, with cries of “socialism” leveled against President Obama.

But in the midst of the sound and the fury, poor people, unemployed people and underemployed people will have access to health care. And for that, I breathe a sigh of relief.

I am beginning to understand what I call the “politics of the fortunate,”  the “fortunate” being those lucky enough to have enough resources to live comfortably in this country. In many of their minds, entitlements, including Medicaid, welfare, and other large-scale programs funded by the government to aid the poor allow and encourage people to be lazy and content to allow others to pay for their needs.

What “the fortunate” don’t seem to understand is that while there are certainly people who take advantage of government programs, many people would rather die than take government assistance, yet would probably literally die were not government assistance available for them.

They don’t seem to understand that many of the unemployed are not working because they seriously cannot find a job; they don’t seem to understand that underemployment is as bad as is unemployment in many instances, not providing enough money for employees to adequately take care of themselves and their families.

What they don’t seem to understand is that just because a person is poor does not mean that that person does not deserve to be treated as a human being. People in the 21st century ought not be walking around with cancer that they cannot afford to get treated, or with abscessed teeth because they cannot afford to go to a dentist.

What they don’t seem to understand is that nobody wants to be poor. Nobody wants to struggle financially. And nobody wants to be penalized and be made to feel like they are not worthy of health care just because they are poor.

It feels strange to live in a country where many put more value on the proliferation of military might than on the protection and care-giving of its own citizens. It feels even stranger to be involved in wars that fight for democracy in other lands while democracy here is broken – because, surely, a country that does not take care of its poor is broken.

I have heard people today say that this health care bill converts America into a socialist country. I do not understand,  but I am sure it has something to do with the resentment that many have that the poor are being helped along by the government …and by their tax dollars.

If you never see the poor, look into their eyes, see how they live, see what they endure, then it’s easy to be dismissive and critical of their presence. If you have not been unemployed or underemployed, it is, again, easy to make judgments about people who are in those situations, and blame them for their situations.

Sarah Palin, like I said, is probably right. This action by the High Court is going to get the Tea Party boiling mad and energized in their fight against big government.

But as we have big government anyway, much of the recent “bigness” put in place by President Bush, causing us to go into serious debt, I rest a little easier knowing that some of my tax dollars are going to help those who absolutely cannot get out of their economic ruts. Like it or not, that is a reality in America. Perhaps one of the biggest differences  between the “haves” and the “have-nots”  is that those in the former group are more likely to have help to get out of their ruts, while the have-nots get more and more entrenched in theirs.

All people, wealthy or poor, deserve health care.  No human is so poor that he or she deserves to be treated like an object with no feelings and no needs.

A candid observation …

America’s Moral Economy and the Issue of Health Care

I read a story in The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/23/health/oregon-study-reveals-benefits-and-costs-of-insuring-the-uninsured.html?smid=fb-share) about a woman who “shattered” her ankle. Because she did not have health insurance, the emergency room put the ankle in an air cast, but doctors would not perform the surgery she needed. As a result, she “hobbled around in pain” for four years, causing her to gain weight, miss work and suffer other health challenges.

This woman did not live in a Third World country. She lives in the United States.

As the country awaits the United States Supreme Court‘s ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare), I find myself shuddering because I am worried that the Court will rule against the bill and if it does, so many people will again be out of luck.

The health care bill, though unpopular because opponents say it’s government-controlled, really does do some helpful things, like allow children with pre-existing conditions to get health care, children to stay on their parents’ plans until they reach age 26, and will eventually allow anyone with a pre-existing condition to get health care.

If the bill is shot down by the Court, however, all of those really positive gains will be lost.

What gets me is how this nation, which calls itself “the greatest nation in the world,” can live with itself when people like the woman mentioned at the beginning of this piece are walking around in pain in spite of our “greatest health-care-system-in-the-world” claim. How can any system be that great when the very people who need it most are shut out?

By now, people have heard of tragedies like children, primarily poor children, dying from such fixable ailments as an impacted tooth. Without health care, these children cannot afford the most basic of care, which also for them happens, many times, to be life-saving. Children and adults have been cut off from receiving necessary chemo-therapy or other treatments when Medicaid has refused to cover such treatment. Can this really be the reality of the so-called “greatest” nation?

Not having health insurance keeps some people from even seeking the care and treatment they need. In the same New York Times article, a woman, 24 years old, was said to be suffering from depression and C

English: President Barack Obama's signature on...
English: President Barack Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

rohn’s disease, but also for stage 2 cervical cancer – for which she cannot afford treatment.

In Oregon, there has been created a lottery where people can “win” health care through the lottery system. Because of that, some people now have health care.  The article is lifting up alternatives to the present health care system, where so many people are left out and is also presenting the benefits and cost of insuring previously uninsured people. The lottery, by allowing people to “win” health care, is apparently a win-win situation for the state and for the “newly insured,” who are getting better care and are cutting health costs in other areas.

That some states are looking for alternatives to our present system is a comfort, but that the federal government is not so supportive of a health care system that takes care of more Americans is troubling. We as a nation seem to have little time or patience for those who are poor and who depend on the government for help. There is a moral economy here that is not working, but the federal government and too many state governments seem unable and unwilling to look at that issue.

In effect, not providing the poor, the unemployed and underemployed with viable health care seems to be immoral, in a country which touts itself as a moral leader in and of the world. I don’t think a nation can be “moral” and not only blame “the least of these” for their predicaments, but also ignore them as much as possible.

I would bet that the nation’s highest court would not agree with me, but we will see, sooner rather than later.

For the sake of people like the 24-year-old woman who is walking around without getting treatment for serious illnesses and diseases, I hope I am wrong.  No nation can afford to ignore its masses, our nation included.

A candid observation …

Girl Talk: Poor Women Have Breasts, Too

Planned Parenthood volunteers help bring the f...
Image via Wikipedia

I am stunned, no, angry, at the decision of the Susan G.Komen organization not to award grants to Planned Parenthood anymore. Their reason is because they oppose abortion, and, despite Planned Parenthood’s assertion that no Komen funds are used for abortions, the Komen folks aren’t buying it.

The fallout is that poor women whose only way to get mammograms was through Planned Parenthood are out of luck.

Interestingly, this happened at the same time that GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said he’s “not concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net.” He mentioned the usual – food stamps, Medicaid

He says they have a safety net even as his party is working to dismantle the same.

But…back to the decision by the Susan G. Komen organization…do they not know that poor women …have breasts, too, and that they, too, need to get screened for breast cancer?

Reports say that money from the Susan G. Komen Foundation provided enough money via their grants to Planned Parenthood over the past five years to pay for 170,000 clinical breast exams, which were particularly helpful for women in rural or in underserved areas.

The Komen grants were given specifically to pay for these breast exams. I know enough about grants that grant recipients are mandated to use the money for the purpose stated in the grant application.

Apparently, though, the Komen Foundation powers-that-be do not like the fact that Planned Parenthood clinics will do abortions. That makes them mad, so, what the heck? Who cares about poor women with breasts who need to be tested for breast cancer so they can perhaps get treated, too?

It is infuriating.

Many who in the past have walked in a Komen event, or who have supported Komen in its efforts, including myself, are going to stop. I suppose Komen’s donations could suffer, but they also could increase, because the topic of abortion and contraception are such hot-button issues for Americans.

But my concern is for the innocent women who depended on the work of Planned Parenthood to get these very important clinical breast exams. Where will they go? How will they get the care they need?

It feels more and more like we live in a “let them eat cake” society, with the rich not caring about the number of people who struggle to survive.  It feels more and more not only like they are blamed for being poor, but are scorned because they depend on help in order to make it.

Something is wrong with this picture.

The Bible says that the love of money is the root of evil. I am supposing that some very wealthy political type said to the Komen folks that if they didn’t stop funding Planned Parenthood that a big chunk of money that they normally get might not be…available anymore.

So, as is usually the case, the poor get the boot in order to make a political point.

Poor women have breasts, too. Poor women count.

I guess the Komen folks forgot those facts…or worse, they don’t care about those facts.

A candid observation …