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…

“The American People” are …who?

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...
English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States. Latviešu: Abrahams Linkolns, sešpadsmitais ASV prezidents. Српски / Srpski: Абрахам Линколн, шеснаести председник Сједињених Америчких Држава. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK. So I am confused. The Constitution of the United States, that sacred document to which we all refer to understand what our country is all about, says that government is to be “of the people.” President Lincoln, in the Gettysburg Address, referred to that constitutional sentiment when he said that government in this nation was to be “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

But who are “the people?” As the Congress leads yet another effort to destroy “Obamacare,”  House Speaker John Boehner gets out and says that “the American people” don’t want this Affordable Care Act. And I would suppose that Rep. Eric Cantor, who has been a leader and a voice in the move to cut domestic spending, would say “the American people” the latest proposed cuts, which would slash $40 billion from food stamps, want the same.

My question is,  who are “the American people?”

Every time I hear any politician say “the American people” I wonder the same thing. “The American people,” if the Congress be believed, don’t care if the government shuts down, because opposing the Affordable Care Act is that much of a cause to fight against. So, the people who would lose their jobs, affecting their ability to survive, are not “the American people?”

Is the Republican Congress that when they say “the American people,” while simultaneously cutting back on programs that help the poor survive, that they are cutting out a huge portion of America’s population? Do they care? The argument is that people being cut need to find jobs, but is the Republican Congress aware that people are working, some two jobs, and still do not make a living wage? Aren’t they “the American people,” too?

In a New York Times article, some members of Congress were said to have supported the measure slashing funding for food stamps because “the food stamp program, which costs $80 billion a year, had grown out of control.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/us/politics/house-passes-bill-cutting-40-billion-from-food-stamps.html) Um…isn’t part of the reason for that is because thousands of “the American people” were thrown into economic despair because of the Great Recession, which was caused by the machinations of corporations who became more wealthy on the backs of …”the American people?”

Aren’t people with pre-existing conditions, people who are unemployed, people with children who have serious medical issues and who are under the age of 27 with no insurance …are not they part of the quilt which makes up the body of “the American people?”

Mr. Boehner, and others …can you please explain who “the American people” are? Can we finally deconstruct this phrase so that we, “the American people,” can understand who you’re talking about?

Because it just seems that a huge swath of “the American people” have been left out of the club.

A candid observation …

Who Cares?

Statue, Three Servicemen, Vietnam Veterans Mem...
Statue, Three Servicemen, Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Years ago, while living in Detroit, I was visiting some friends. We were playing a board game and laughing and eating. Out of nowhere, a car backfired, and the husband of my friend was suddenly under the table, his eyes wide, breathing heavily. He had broken out into a sweat and was clearly terrified.

He was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (although it hadn’t been diagnosed at that time.) His wife said that he hadn’t been the same since he returned from Vietnam. He was nervous and edgy; loud noises terrified him, he suffered from nightmares, and just wasn’t the same. To add insult to injury, she said that she couldn’t get the VA to admit that he had anything wrong with him, so she wasn’t able to get him the medical and psychiatric help he needed.  I moved from Detroit soon after and lost contact with my friend; I often wonder how her husband is doing.

Fast forward thirty, forty years and it seems that veterans are not having all that much better luck in getting treated well or in being able to get necessary medical and/or psychiatric help once they get home from war, if what I read and have listened to is correct.

According to an article which appeared in The New York Times, there is what is called a “crushing inventory of claims for disability, pension and educational benefits” for returning vets. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/28/us/veterans-wait-for-us-aid-amid-growing-backlog-of-claims.html?pagewanted=all) Far too many homeless people these days are veterans (http://www.newdirectionsinc.org/press_ap.html), many cannot get mortgages, some lose their homes while they are deployed, and reportedly the rate of suicide for veterans continues to rise.

I think about this sad reality as we celebrate this Veterans Day. Clearly, young men and women have sacrificed their lives for the United States.  I am not so sure what the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or, earlier, Vietnam, have been about, but regardless of my confusion, and the confusion of many in our country, young people went and fought.  World Wars I and II vets, wars which seem a little more focused in purpose, produced a slew of veterans as well…and from what I have read, they were not treated much better than present-day vets.  And if white vets have been treated poorly, it goes without saying that vets who are people of color have suffered even more.

It leads me to ask, “America, where is your conscience? How can our government treat vets so poorly?

People who go to war do not come back the same as they were. It would seem that coming back “the same” is impossible. If one gets into a habit of killing other human beings, if one sees ones friends blown away, sometimes in front of them, if one sees horrible suffering day after day, suffers egregiously on battlefields, and really can’t talk to anyone about what the stupid war is doing to his or her mind,  it cannot be expected that he or she would be the same.

And yet, they are treated as being the same. I have seen vets hailed and applauded as they have gotten on flights, on the last leg of their flight going home…or cheered as they have gone off to war. We have somehow, for some reason, romanticized war…and yet, there is nothing romantic about it. After the applause at an airport, after or in spite of the annual Veteran’s Day parades,  the sad reality of “being home” sets in, with nothing the same, and, presumably, not many outlets for help.

These young men and women, too many of them, walk around in torment, unable to function normally. Too many end up homeless; too many commit suicide.

One vet’s experience I read broke my heart.  This young man returned home from war. He was a mess. He would wait for his wife to go to work and “pull the blinds and take out the booze.” He would toy with his gun, sometimes putting it in his mouth, courting suicide. Finally, his behavior became too much for his family. He lost his wife and family, and ended up homeless. (http://www.newdirectionsinc.org/press_ap.html) Sadly that scenario is all too common.

Who cares about the veterans? I mean, in the government, who really cares? Why is there such a backlog of claims for veterans seeking help?  It seems wrong; the country is eager to use these men and women to “fight for America” and when their tours are up, America has little to no time for them. It is kind of reminiscent of how football franchises uses young men to win games for them to help make them rich, but when their playing days are over, the franchise has difficulty getting them help, especially medical help, they need. Many a football star lives a rough life, fraught with suffering, after their playing days are over.

Understanding how difficult it is for vets to get treated with dignity once they get home, the parades bother me anymore. Who cares about these vets once they get home? What is the celebration about? How can we celebrate wars fought if we cannot and do not really honor and take care of the human beings who fought in them?

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 …

Somebody Ought to Tell the Truth!

In a front page article written by  Binyamin Appelbaum and Robert Gebeloff which appeared in The New York Times on February 12, a gentleman was described as being

, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.
Image via Wikipedia

anti big government. He printed tee shirts for his local Tea Party affiliate, and says he doesn’t need or want help from the government.

Yet, the article said, he gets a payment from the government every year, a subsidy for working families called the “earned income tax credit,”  “he has signed his three school age children up to receive free breakfasts,” paid for the by the federal government, and his mother, who had to have hip surgery twice, is on Medicare – again, a federal program.

This kind of situation is not the exception, but, rather, the rule, and I am finding it harder and harder to listen to GOP presidential contenders talk about how they will slash domestic spending because it represents big government. At the end of the day, politicians are not telling people the truth, but, rather, what they want to hear. The people are not clear on what “big government” is, and politicians are allowing their ignorance to remain, because their lack of knowledge is the pot in which raw emotions fester, and politicians know that many an election has been won by stirring the right pot with the right emotions.

Are people really thinking about what would happen if the host of government benefits we all take so for granted suddenly were not there? What WOULD happen to our elderly if Medicare were no more?  The Times article said that “dozens of benefits programs provided an average of $6,583 for each man, woman and child in 2009, a 69 percent increase since 2000.” The article said that older people get most of the benefits, primarily through Social Security and Medicare. So, if we cut domestic spending, how would “the least of these,” in this case, the elderly, get by?

Rick Santorum said that while Jesus wanted people to help poor people, social justice creates lazy Christians. That statement was stunning in and of itself, but it is disturbing and misleading and leads Americans to visualize “the poor” as lazy and probably members of a minority group. Like it or not, there are certain buzz words that get self-righteous Americans stirred up about who “the American taxpayer” is helping…but what is not being discussed or highlighted is that, again according to the Times article  “the poorest households no longer receive a majority of government benefits.” Now it seems that the doling out of government benefits has been more focused on saving the slowly dying middle class.

There is no doubt that the nation’s economy, in fact, the world’s economy, is in horrible shape.  GOP presidential hopefuls who want to beat President Obama cannot be pleased that the economy seems to be getting better, albeit slowly. That fact takes the wind out of their argument that the Obama administration is a “failed presidency,” but they still beat the drum that the biggest reason, or one of the biggest reasons the economy has pitted is because of big government and reckless government spending.

Somebody needs to be bold and tell the truth about what is going on. Rick Santorum looks like a clean-cut, all-American choir boy, and he stands on his Christianity, but Christianity  i.e., the following of the Christ – demands a social conscience and a heart for “the least of these.” Santorum has not voiced the truth that “the least of these” is a group growing larger and larger as the income disparity between rich and poor gets wider and wider.  William Sloan Coffin once said that what the “Christian community needs to do above all else is to raise up men and women of thought and of conscience…” Merely advocating for slashing of needed government programs, at the expense of people who have been the backbone of this country, providing the labor and services that made wealth possible for so many, would seem to be immoral, unethical …and un-Christian.

Santorum is talking a lot of religion lately, going so far as to say President Obama has a “phony theology.” I do not understand that phrase, but what I do know is that the Jesus in the scriptures I read would not condone the wealthy getting more wealthy while more and more people are falling deeper and deeper into financial ruin, with the threat of what little help they have hanging over their heads.

I cannot believe God is pleased with what is going on.

A candid observation.