Sunday, February 05, 2006

I Guess I've Started

As I ponder the breadth of Digital Doorway's subject matter and wonder whether I should begin to address political and economic issues that concern me in this venue, the nurse at The Mote in the Light raises the oh-so-timely issue of the newly proposed cuts to Medicaid. She writes:

"Let's hear it for the US Congress, who has decided that so many poor people are benefiting from Medicaid that it must be cut. Our pockets are being assaulted too heavily by these poor and disabled citizens and, by God, something must be done.

"So they have now given states the right to cut services and eligibility; to require copayments from people who already can't pay their bills because "this will reduce utilization" (watch out, all you ERs) offer the poor "health savings plans" (Can you figure yours out? If so, can you come explain them to my impoverished families who have never had any practice budgeting money? Thanks.). In short, they are holding poor people responsible for using the entitlement they were granted and actually used. Fancy that."

As a healthcare provider solely for the poor, this reality of further cuts to Medicaid while oil companies and Big Pharma post record profits is absolutely infuriating. We must bear in mind that Medicaid recipients have already lost dental and eye care, as well as various other "luxuries" like diabetic shoes and certain types of durable medical equipment. No one in Congress seems to think that dental cleanings are important for poor diabetics whose risk of complications from poor dental health is astronomically higher than the average person's.

I've always felt that the health insurance package enjoyed by members of Congress should be identical to that of Medicaid recipients (not that wealthy lawmakers can't afford to buy their own eyeglasses) just to keep those denizens of the Capitol on their toes vis-a-vis healthcare disparities.

The War on Poverty is really not a war on poverty itself---it is a war on the impoverished. A government's responsibility is to care for its most vulnerable citizens, but this government---in particular the current Administration---seems to have no problem with eviscerating social programs in the interests of economic expansion for the wealthy and the aggrandizement of its own twisted self-image and power consolidation. Medicare Part D was like writing a blank check to the pharmaceutical lobby. No Child Left Behind? A new way to castigate and punish poor neighborhoods for their schools' poor performance. The Patriot Act? I can't even stomach the idea of writing about it.

I see the effects of the government's inability---or refusal---to adequately care for its most vulnerable citizens every day. Most of us average citizens cannot even imagine what happens behind closed doors in the halls of Congress, the deals that are brokered, the die that is cast by those whose interests center upon their own political futures, lining the pockets of those who need it the least. Jack Abramoff is only the tip of the iceberg, and we can rest assured that for every operator in the halls of power who is actually caught in the act, there are dozens more whose cold-hearted subterfuge remains under the radar.

So, those of us struggling against diseases of poverty and economic disparity will continue to do so in the face of whatever odds are stacked against the poor and politically powerless. As maddening as this world may seem, the cards continually seem to be marked in the interests of those who least need to win the hand. But someday the winning streak of the wealthy and powerful will have to end, and you all know what has always been said about the meek......

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