Thursday, May 12, 2005

Cut the Deficit, Crush the Weak

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.

Luke 10:25-37

7 comments:

Chad said...

Larry, thanks for another timely and challenging post. As someone who presently works on the front lines of our healthcare delivery systems (all I day I talk to patients about prescriptions, insurance referrals, and primary care appointments at a large urban hospital), I've observed that those in most need of quality care are often those who can't afford it. If they are dependent upon an insurance such as Medicare/Medicaid, then they are often further subjected to the indignity of bureaucratic red tape in order to get decent care. Many of the patients with complex medical problems are also those who suffer from the effects of poverty, as do their children. It's a wonder that few in our government (both state and federal) have made the connection that a large part of healthcare system's woes are related to the problems of poverty. I'd love to see you spin this out some more for us.

Peace,
Chad

Jeremy Gregg said...

A recent study indicates that poverty is the single-most dominant factor in health... more so even than unhealthy behaviors:

http://www.cbc.ca/story/science/national/2005/05/09/Poverty050509.html

"Poverty erodes a person's health more than smoking, drinking or lack of exercise, a Statistics Canada study suggests. Education and income were more important for middle-aged health than acting healthy, said the study, released on Monday."

"'Among middle-aged adults aged 45 to 64, socio-economic characteristics such as the education level and household income were more important determinants of healthy aging than healthy behaviours,' it said."

Jeremy Gregg said...

From everychildmatters.org, the "Lowlights for Children (over 5 years)" in the recently passed
Federal Budget:

-$10 billion in Medicaid cuts.

-$3 billion in cuts to agriculture programs, including food stamps.

-$212 billion in cuts to discretionary programs, including Head Start, child care, afterschool, child abuse and neglect prevention, education, and more.

-$106 billion in new tax breaks for the wealthy, with $70 billion of those tax breaks protected by special fast track procedures.

-$160 billion in additional federal debt.

So, not only are we punishing the children now, we are insuring that they will also have a harder time paying for it later. This transference of debt to the next generation is the part of the "compassionate conservative" agenda that baffles me the most -- in what way is this conservative OR compassionate?

Kendall said...

Re: Cut the Deficit, Crush the Weak

Larry, thanks for pointing out the verbal manipulation and deception going on by the Administration
regarding the Medicaid cut. Denying that cuts are cuts and instead saying they are "slowing growth" seems minor but it's this kind of dishonesty that is allowing the dismantling of the social safety net as we know it. The current reengineering of the tax structure and the beginnings of a Third World-like rich - poor gap in the U.S. are happening not because the majority of Americans want this but because just enough Americans are being tricked by manipulative language and deceptive debate. This is a strategy on the part of some right-wing Republicans that many other more moderate Republicans and independents are falling for.

Those who are manipulated by this inaccurate, often dishonest language are responsible - along with the leaders enacting these policies - in digging us deeper into poverty.

Kendall said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

A cut, by defintion, is a reduction in the amount spent. They are increasing the amount spent therefore it is not a cut. It is more accurate to call it a slow in growth and it is dishonest to call it a cut.

Herman Albert said...

I''m not familiar with this subject but interesed.