He represents the “able-bodied” man who might be required to work in exchange for benefits in the GOP-sponsored "improved" healthcare plan.
Rep. Gary Palmer (Alabama), who offered the motion to add work requirements, said the ACA transformed Medicaid into “a permanent welfare benefit” that defied the original purpose of the program.
“When Medicaid was created, it wasn’t intended to become an entitlement for able-bodied adults,” he said. “Instead, it was meant to be a temporary safety net to protect the most vulnerable. It was meant for seniors and individuals with disabilities, pregnant women and children.”
I wonder if Rep. Palmer and other ideologues pushing Medicaid's overhaul have any sense of the challenges facing people in extreme poverty. Does he understand that gumption is not the sole requirement in an economy that pays poverty wages to fast food workers and where 7.8 million people, about 5% of the workforce, have two or more jobs?
Most of the moonlighters would prefer to have a single, full-time job. Most of the people I see at the Day Center say they are looking for work. Some of them work now, but in unstable or seasonal jobs that don't pay enough to live on. Of course, many of them have the more immediate requirement of finding a minimum of three dollars to pay for a shelter bed tonight.
Very few of my readers who've been jobless have had the experience of looking for work without any resources—no car, computer, no savings, references or stable work record; living with the daily crush of finding a meal and a safe place to sleep; maybe no partner or supportive relatives; a lost ID, a pending warrant or two; a touch of anxiety, trauma or depression that's never been treated or qualified for disability.
Sure, work is out there if people will look for it and someone will take a chance on them.
"John" is a poster child for the world the GOP thinks it will usher in by getting tougher on Medicare requirements.
Recently released from prison after serving eight years, John has been living in the local Rescue Mission, a faith-based shelter that takes men who can't find housing anywhere else. Like many there, John has a felony on his record; he's also registered as a sex offender. His life took a spiritual direction in prison, and he applied himself diligently to turning things around.
After submitting and following up on 78 employment applications over about two months, he finally found work at a chain restaurant in town. When I saw him at the Day Center this week, he was on his way to sign a lease on a small apartment.
Hearing John's story, it's not impossible to imagine that other poor individuals with difficult backgrounds will be able to go out and find employment. But kicking people off health insurance won't necessarily motivate them to find a job they couldn't find before.
One thing we can expect: Those without Medicare coverage will stay away from clinics longer when they do have health problems, and they will show up at emergency rooms with even worse conditions, to receive treatment from hospitals which won't be compensated.
Perhaps conservatives don't consider their plan to be shredding the safety net. They will use people like John to brand others as malingerers and justify purging them from Obamacare's Medicaid expansion.
But perhaps the greatest obscenity is they will use the "savings" to produce more poor folks in other lands. All in the name of freedom.