Medicaid cuts spell death for the poor
Published Oct 26, 2005 10:00 PM
In the British Medical Journal of Oct. 22,
David Atkins and Ernest M. Moy of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
write, “The gap in health between white and black Americans has been
estimated to cause 84,000 excess deaths a year in the United States, a virtual
Katrina every week.... The same factors that placed the poorest residents of New
Orleans in harm’s way—unemployment, poverty, neglect of communities,
and alienation—contribute to health disparities for poor children and
adults and those from minority groups throughout the United
In a government that placed the needs of its people before
profits, numbers like these would be a clarion call to ensure that everyone
received adequate and effective health care and prevention. The U.S. government,
however, is planning the exact opposite.
Florida to cut Medicaid
On Oct. 19 the Bush administration approved a plan for
Florida that will limit spending for many of the 2.2 million people in that
state who use Medicaid, the government’s health care program for the poor.
Under the new plan, each recipient must enroll in a private health insurance
plan—and if a recipient does not choose one, the state will select one for
Florida will then pay a monthly premium to the chosen private plan.
However, there will be a ceiling on spending by the state per user—so that
if a person’s health expenses were to exceed that limit, s/he could
feasibly be charged for any additional services. Private companies will make
many of the decisions as to just how much and what kinds of services are
provided to individual users.
According to the Oct. 20 New York Times,
insurance plans will be allowed to limit “the amount, duration and
scope” of services in ways that “current law does not
The Times reports that other states are already looking
towards similar plans for Medicaid in their states. Medicaid serves over 50
million low-income people and is jointly financed by the state and federal
Mandatory health care
In another attack on the
many poor living in this country who cannot afford health care—and a boost
to the profiteering health care industry—a bill is being written by
Massachusetts House lawmakers that would make it mandatory for individuals to
purchase health care. According to the Boston Globe, “lawmakers are still
settling the details” of this bill—for instance, some politicians
say they would like to exclude lower-income people from the requirement, while
others, like Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Rom ney, want to apply the requirement for
everyone, and punish those who can’t get insurance with tax penalties and
even garnishment of their wages.
Lastly, an article in the Oct. 26 Wall
Street Journal tells that both Senate and House Republicans are moving forward
with bills that would cut $39 billion and $50 billion, respectively, from health
and social service programs. House Repub licans, according to the Times, cite
the cost of hurricane relief as the need to cut the budget, thus trying to pit
one group of poor people against another.
At the time of this writing,
costofwar. com calculates the cost of the Iraq war at $203.6 billion, which is
enough to provide a year’s health insurance for almost 122 million
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