Vigorously Insisting On A More Perfect Union: Fighting Cuts, Demanding Universal Health Care

Posted by – February 15, 2007

Vigorously Insisting On A More Perfect Union: Fighting Cuts, Demanding Universal Health Care

I Take On Health Care Policy Once Again

It has almost become a spring ritual for me. President Bush submits a new budget to Congress, unabashedly filled with loathsome cuts to the lifeline of the poor and disabled (Medicaid) to finance more tax rebates for billionaires and Exxon. I then write a column in the college newspaper challenging the country’s backwards priorities, or, since ’05, I blog about here. But it is every year, it never fails, for six years now. Each year I take up my quixotic sword and crusade against the dragons of rightist immorality, and I’m sick of it, fed up with the harsh toll paid by the disabled minority in increased suffering and death.

Here are this year’s cuts, described in this Associated Press article, “Medicaid Cuts Could Affect Students

George Wilson, superintendent for public schools in Monroe County, Ky., said federal reimbursements connected to therapy are crucial to helping his district pay for school nurses.

“The kids that need the nurses the most will be hurt the most when they’re not available,” Wilson said. “We certainly would beg that they not eliminate our ability to bill for those services.”

Medicaid is the federal-state partnership that provides health coverage for about 55 million poor people. The federal government will spend more than $200 billion on it this year, while states will spend about $150 billion.

Under the Bush plan, Medicaid cuts also would hit:

– Teaching hospitals, $1.8 billion.

– Publicly owned hospitals and nursing homes, $5 billion.

– Providers of rehabilitation services for the mentally and developmentally disabled, $2.3 billion.

Health care providers acknowledge they may have a much harder time stopping the regulations than they would any bills in Congress.

“Clearly, the president’s budget has met with extensive skepticism on Capitol Hill. Clearly, the budget moving forward is highly unlikely,” said Tom Nickels of the American Hospital Association. “As a result, initiatives that can be done through regulation are very troublesome.”

What he means is that our employees in the Executive Branch will continue what they’ve tried for six years: backdoor tactics to harm our medical services with administrative restrictions when cuts are blocked in Congress. The old end-around play.

It’s been even worse in the past. Initially Bush proposed to end the Medicaid program in favor of no-strings-attached block grants to the states that would be severely capped and unchangeable if your state has increased needs. This was such a horrible idea and would throw states with already broken and neglected Medicaid systems into such a terrible tailspin of public health and economic crisis, that the (then majority Republican) National Governor’s Association, backed by lots of advocacy from disabilities groups, made Bush drop the plan.

However, deep, sweeping cuts have been proposed by President Bush every year he’s been employed here. Usually the Republican Congress would pare down the cuts from devastating to merely horrible before sending them to the president’s desk to be signed into law, so while our health care system hasn’t collapsed totally due to cuts, it has been hurt dearly.

Bush and his cabinet look for “savers” in domestic programs

Americans largely like to pretend budgetary changes such as these have no real effect on their lives. The administration is arguing that their plan to slash $70 Billion from Medicare and Medicaid won’t dent the growth of the program OVERALL, but tell that to the disabled guy who was just told waiting lists for medical assistance are now extended indefinitely due to the cuts to the already-neglected system. Tell that to the paraplegic guy who was dumped out onto the street on Skid Row with a broken colostomy bag last week by a Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center van, leaving him to crawl on the sidewalk with nothing but a hospital gown and his own feces (full story here). There is inadequate funding all over. We need huge increases if we are to address the massive unmet needs that exist and achieve something of a just society.

For those with severe disabilities dependent on Medicaid, the Republican cuts from 1995-2007 have had horrible consequences. I’ve had to fight like hell to survive. In 1996 in Alabama, Medicaid
started gutting EPSDT (the federally-mandated program providing nursing care for those in need) and sending out termination notices to families in the mail. Then in 1999-2001 we had more aggressive cuts. They changed the rules so it’s only a temporary program to train caregivers to stay with their child 24/7, and they keep repeating that it is not the government’s role to “babysit” your child at all (even if your child is on life support and routinely coding). And now it is 2007 and Alabama barely funds it at all. We’ve almost been rolled back into the 1970s level. I’ve had friends die. I’m sick of tolerating this evil like it is a valid policy position. It is in no way valid nor deserving of our deference and patience. It is nothing but immoral.

Let’s go deeper. What are the motivating factors behind loathsome public policy of this nature? From all I’ve learned, and what is printed openly in the Republican party platform, the ideologies are basically:
) the
private sector is always more efficient and effective than government, therefore we should cut back Medicaid as much as possible so the free market can create innovative solutions.
2) “I don’t want to pay for you.” Taxation is always bad, therefore we should cut
back Medicaid as much as possible so we’ll have less to pay for.

Both of these are wrong and destructive, yet are widely echoed in America in words and in voting patterns.

I have seen too much suffering and death because of inadequate supports and invisible safety nets and I am frakking traumatized that people are still pushing this destructive right-wing mythology that if we chip away at government funding even further, that this will magically increase services. It has been tried for years and has failed every time.

Medicaid saves lives. Since introducing Medicaid and other programs in the ’60s, infant mortality in America has dropped by 1/3 (the free market previously let those babies die). Medicaid keeps me alive. I would not be alive to type this without Medicaid. We’ve had over a decade of budget cuts pushed by the aforementioned misconceptions, and now Alabama has almost no Medicaid at all; it has been cut back to barely existing. Where are all these wonderful private systems aiding people with disabilities? Nowhere to be found. What fills the gap? Nothing does. There is no free market incentive to help people with disabilities here. People fall through the cracks and die over and over and over and over. I’m beyond fury and disgust at what Alabama has done.

Yet we can still entertain the fantasy that if government just goes away, the market will devise a better system? I’ve even seen some people with disabilities writing, “yes, I don’t mind if they cut Medicaid! vote GOP!” shortsightedly believing it won’t effect them (evidently it’s okay to hurt someone else as long as it isn’t you). These ideas should be long-since discredited and abandoned as purely destructive to our basic survival.

If you gut government funding and leave people with disabilities to the free market jungle, they are devalued and thrown aside.

I am arguing the fundamental truth that reducing funding for people with disabilities does not magically increase funding for people with disabilities. I am arguing the fundamental truth that very few of the severely disabled would ever survive without help, our needs are expensive, and I don’t see the free market ever giving us services for free (the market is wonderful for many things, like efficiently meeting demand for widgets, but keeping us alive isn’t one of them). Therefore, we need government funding, and (if this is properly prioritized) substantially MORE government funding, not less.

In a perfect world (known in Judaism as the Messianic Age) all health care would be free. It would be patently obvious to everyone that this immoral system that makes sick people fork over all their assets or die, is to be abandoned!

The rift between me
and the Republicans in power is I am trying to build a more perfect union NOW with free health care for everyone, and they are fighting it tooth and nail, in an idolatrous mindset against every major religious text that makes money and serving money the center, not mitzvos (commandments / good deeds).

My politics are an essential mandate stemming from the basic moral and spiritual system I have always had.
Because the national Republican platform embraces the despicable policy of
slashing aid for the poor and disabled (those who need it most) and giving the money in huge tax cuts to those who need it least (billionaires), because for three decades they have aggressively pushed gigantic rebates for oil corporations (that already have bigger profits than the GDPs of most countries) as of far greater importance than funding health care and reducing our infant mortality (which is still bad and behind Cuba’s) and because of these policy differences, I doubt I will ever ever ever ever support a Republican for president. Democrats, while chock-full of their own problems, have opposed cutting health care every time. It is from this framework that I will be assessing candidates for president and their health care plans.

And I’ll continuing opposing every attempt to cut health care.


  • Anonymous

    Universal health care is socialism. As of now, this isn’t a socialist state. You want free health care, move to a socialist society. Leave our free enterprise alone. I don’t want the same government who gave us the response to Hurricane Katrina determining whether or not I can get medicine. If you were wise, you wouldn’t want it either.

  • Anonymous

    To comment #1:

    There’s different types of universal health care. There’s nationalized healthcare- what you speak of- that does not work well or often.

    Then there’s single-payer, which keeps a private healthcare system, but the government foots all of the bill. It works.

  • Nick

    Universal health care is NOT socialism. It’s Judaism. It’s Christianity. It’s Buddhism. It is simply what any moral system demands.

  • Anonymous

    Universal health care is NOT socialism. It’s Judaism. It’s Christianity. It’s Buddhism. It is simply what any moral system demands.

    It’s the synagogue’s responsibility, the church’s responsibility, NOT the government’s. The laziest people on this earth are the “religious people” who allowed the government to take over THEIR job of caring for the needy. God said YOU do it, not “let your government do it for you.”

  • Nick

    Your assumption that the government is a separate, foreign body is false.

    The people ARE the government. Of, by, and for the people. Everything government does is an expression of the will of the people.

    There is a social contract we have with each other to care for the weak and ill. This is the foundation of society.

    You are at war with the very fabric of civilization.

  • Anonymous

    We cannot have church and state together. Remember? It’s the church’s job to care for sick and orphan and widows according to what you said earlier.

    I do not want the same people who gave us the Swine Flu fiasco in the 70s caring for me. The people in Washington who cannot respond to an F2 tornado that affects just a few people without blowing a billion dollars needlessly couldn’t do much better on health care. There’s also fraud. If you think back to Katrina you may recall how many billions of dollars they said were wasted on fraud. Put free health care out there and see how many people start abusing the system. HA — I say “start”, look at the people abusing government systems right now! $11.6 billion in Medicare fraud in 2002? Billions in Medicaid annually? And you want more of that?

    Your time would be better spent changing laws so that people who really need the health care the government already provides don’t have to share it with the frauds and the fakes.

  • Nick

    I didn’t say it’s the church’s job to provide health care for everyone. I said it’s the role of any moral society. I said it’s mandated by every religious tradition. Protection of the weak is why we form a society, a government in the first place. You’re at war with that.

    Caring for the disabled is part of any valid social contract.

    Will respond in more detail in my next blog.

  • Anonymous

    Fight Back! Join the National Boycott, Tax (4/15) thru Earth (4/22) Day, 2007.

  • poverty outlaw

    Nick, I agree with you.
    Under Medicaid in Tennessee, with a Republican Governor, a disabled person could see a doctor all day long. Diagnosis and treatment were optional. Under this regime, my fibromyalgia was diagnosed by a doctor who soon stopped seeing Medicaid patients. The diabetes was diagnosed and a pill provided, but no patient education was forthcoming. The COPD and the arthritis in my spine was just ignored.
    After I finally qualified for Medicare, the COPD was diagnosed by a GP who decided I “fit the profile” (I had turned 50). He put me on asthma medication. The arthritis and degeneration of my spine was diagnosed four months ago. The result? Taxpayers are paying $1200 a month for pharmaceuticals and oxygen, plus physical therapy so that I may possibly maintain my mobility. I have only limited use of my arms and hands. If all this had been properly diagnosed and treated 11 years ago when I became unable to work, I would still be happily paying taxes today. The GOP (Party of Life…Riiiiight)has fostered a perception that disabled people are lazy people sponging off the taxpayers. The hidden sub text is that if Jesus loved you, you would be healthy. The doctors seem to buy into one or both scripts, and coupled with anger generated by the pathetic payment rates common to both systems, provide minimal medical care to the disabled. The end result is that the disabled do their patriotic duty and die, early and often. This is fine with the general public. They are healthy. BTW, the only reason I survived to tell the tale is that I was a cardiac technician before I got sick and could educate myself about the various conditions and insist on proper treatment once diagnosed. Still, I doubt I will live to see 60.

  • Maurice

    So “Anonymous”. I have a question for you that I have for every “Conservative” that spouts his/her vile, backward, crap. If you are so fundamentally against government, why do you comment on it, and in many cases, choose to pursue some of your work life in it? I mean, if you believe so much in the “free market” why don’t you and Rush, and Sean, spend your days commenting and positing solely on it’s inherent ability to solve all of society’s problems. Seriously, the “free market” has always been the primary reason that all of history’s great social successes’ have been accomplished before though, right ? I just know that the “free market” would have freed the slaves right? Or gave women the right to vote, right? I mean the “free market iteration” worked so well that in the last century it created the Great Depression, but you conveniently disregard that don’t you. Although it is my guess that like most regressives, you don’t read and you have a strange contempt for intellectuals, so you would’nt know how the Great Depression came about anyway. It says a great deal about you that your peg is “Anonymous”. I speculate that like most regressives you choose this peg because you know that like most regressives you can’t defend your position intellectually and the only way that you can be involved in a mature conversation about how to deal with American society’s problems is to name-call or try to hurt the messenger of the competing perspective.

  • Poverty Outlaw

    P.S. You seem to have attracted a troll who is using the failures of government generated by a Party who wants to destroy government, to justify continuing the “system” we have now.

    “Universal health care is socialism. As of now, this isn’t a socialist state.”

    Show me where the Founders put Capitalism into the Constitution.

    “It’s the synagogue’s responsibility, the church’s responsibility, NOT the government’s.”

    That is your opinion, based on the religious philosophy known as Christian Reconstructionism, which also holds that the proper role of Government is protection of private property and the imposition of Old Testament Law on everyone in society. While you are welcome to practice your religion and vote your beliefs, I am free to do the same.

    “God said YOU do it, not “let your government do it for you.” ”

    Under the Constitution, what you claim God said is irrelevant. I expect that when you become ill, you will not accept any government help.

    “We cannot have church and state together. Remember? It’s the church’s job to care for sick and orphan and widows according to what you said earlier.”

    Religious traditions support what Nick is advocating. Only Reconstructionism restricts government from helping the sick and weak. Once again, show me where the Founders restricted government from this activity.

    Nick, keep fighting the good fight! Now that I am aware of your blog, I will check in often.

  • David Shephard, M.D.

    Poverty Outlaw:
    ever read the constitution, you nub? Try looking at implied meanings. The term Capitalism wasn’t coined until well after the document was written.

    As far as universal health care–it’s pathetic. Walk into a public hospital, then walk into a private one. The difference, is that things actually get done in the private sector, while the public hospital is controlled by politicians who have no fucking clue how to deal with the problems. This leaves the hospitals in a position where they cannot provide the care that Americans have received, and should receive. Don’t argue about subject you have no clue about. If you were a doctor, you would know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. It’s obvious that you’ve never seen the other side of the ER or had to deal with hospital administrators. Universal health care will kill more Americans from clogging up the hospitals, than would die from lack of treatment. You ignorant socialists are going to destroy this nation.

  • Shmoo Snook

    The doc says: “This leaves the hospitals in a position where they cannot provide the care that Americans have received, and should receive.”

    And which Americans have received that care, doc? Americans with health insurance (or large amounts of money). Those without have no choice but to go to those public hospitals where nothing gets done.

    If, as you predict, “[u]niversal health care will kill more Americans from clogging up the hospitals, than would die from lack of treatment,” at least it will equitably kill rich and poor alike. Without universal health care, lack of treatment will kill primarily the poor.

    And maybe that’s exactly what you want, you putz.

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