Thanks to recent decisions in Washington, DC, the federal deficit is at an all-time high. The Congress wants to remedy that reality.
How to proceed?
You don't have to read further to know the answer, do you?
Cut the budget. Cut spending.
More specifically, cut spending on programs and benefits that touch those at the bottom of our society.
First up on the chopping block: Medicaid.
In Texas, Medicaid serves one of every three children.
The administration refuses to call its FY2006 budget plan for Medicaid a cut. They prefer to refer to their approach as an attempt to "slow the program's growth."
Semantics aside, the bottom line is clear. By 2010 Medicaid spending will decline by $10 billion.
Fifty-three million Americans use Medicaid as their insurance product.
Medicaid serves low-income people, uninsured children, pregnant women, low-income elderly and persons with chronic diseases and disabilities. The program pays for 50% of all nursing home care (35% of the program's spending) and 55% of all HIV/AIDS long-term care.
In Texas, 70% of the enrollees are children. Medicaid pays for 50% of all births in the state.
In other words, the weakest among us.
Enrollment has grown by 40% since 2000.
The Congress must find ways to trim the budget and its spending in order to protect and to make permanent the President's tax cuts. Our representatives will most likely leave $70 billion on the table by extending Mr. Bush's capital gains and dividend tax cuts alone.
To compensate for this loss of revenue, they will most likely cut health benefits to those who need it most and can afford it least.
The problem is complex, formidable and, unfortunately, enduring. As more and more Americans lose health care benefits and as the working, underclass grows, the problem escalates.
Current national health care policy pummels the urban poor. I see the results on a daily basis. They are not pretty.
As a people, we dig the ditch of poverty deeper.