A young mother sits at a kitchen table, afraid to open her mail. Barnes Jewish Hospital, St. Joseph’s Medical Center, Doctor Smith’s office- no need to open the letters, as she is already fully aware of the contents of each envelope: medical bills. Sighing, she pulls a loaf of bread out of the pantry to prepare a dinner of peanut butter and jelly for herself and her son; funds have been tight ever since Governor Matt Blunt reduced Missouri’s Medicaid budget in 2005, leaving her-and nearly 180,000 other adults and children- uninsured.
Governor Matt Blunt definitely created a mess when he cut Medicaid funds, which is why it is time to get Missouri back on track: by reversing the 2005 Medicaid cuts, medical fraud will occur less often, employment rates will increase, and the state of the economy will improve drastically.
Not all states treat their residents badly; Missouri
(with the help of shameless Republicans like Mr. Blunt), however, has mastered the art of neglect. Ranking in at a pitiful 39th (for those who have forgotten, there are only 50 states in the United States of America) position for the amount of general state revenue spent on Medicaid, and 36th for the amount spent per person, Missouri appears to be the epitome of Darwinism-survival of the fittest is all too familiar for residents of this Midwestern state.
The United States of America is an ethnocentric country, and Missouri
is a selfish state. Medicaid recipients are often stereotyped as being lazy freeloaders, but the reality of the situation is that 65% of those insured by Medicaid are employed-and the individuals who are not employed are usually disabled or elderly. Granted, not every Medicaid recipient is an honest, hard-working, disabled, or elderly individual-but guess what? Not every member of the highly esteemed upper class has a legitimate source of income (cash from selling dope can buy a nice suburban house just as easily as a paycheck from a 50-hour work week at a major corporation) -there are always loopholes and exceptions to every rule. Fraud is unavoidable.
However, one should never feel discouraged by the fact that fraud is unavoidable; unavoidable should not be confused with uncontrollable.
The human race is complicated, and there will always be people in the world that will do unethical things; however, it is important to realize that even good people can turn bad if they feel they have no other choice. A family of two can only qualify for Medicaid if they make $234 a month or less-and who can live off of that?! An individual can qualify for Medicaid, but only if they are pregnant, blind, elderly, or disabled. But what conditions qualify an individual to be branded as “disabled”?
According to the Missouri
Department of Social Services, “Persons must be over age 65 or meet the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) definition of disabled or the state definition of blindness. Persons receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security based on age or disability are automatically qualified for Medical Assistance on those factors”. This answer is reasonable enough, but still somewhat vague; what conditions, exactly, qualify an individual for SSI (thus making them eligible for Medicaid as well)? Disability Secrets, a popular website, states that there are two sets of criteria that must be followed to determine whether an applicant is eligible for SSI benefits, the second set of which “has everything to do with a claimant’s medical, psychological, or psychiatric condition”. The site continues their explanation of who can qualify for disability by stating that “If a claimant’s medical records indicate that they are not capable of doing their past work or any other type of work (after considering, of course, their age, education, work skills, and the level of their physical and mental restrictions), they will qualify for disability and be put on benefit receipt status”. Wow, what a great process-it sounds as if anybody can qualify for disability as long as whatever illness they fabricate prevents them from working. Bipolar? Forget about employment-mood swings tend to upset even the calmest supervisor! Back pain? Standing is out of the question, and sitting is just as bad for those poor lumbar muscles-when the doctor presents the patient pain scale, remember: on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst-always choose ten! It’s definitely easier to create an illness that makes working out of the question than it is to shell out hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars each month for health insurance and medical bills…and it’s just as easy to supplement one’s Medicaid with under-the-table income from childcare or side jobs like construction and lawn care.
Medical fraud isn’t the only issue presented by Mr. Blunt’s budget cuts, though; some folks aren’t creative enough to fake an illness or a chronic condition. These individuals find other ways to qualify for Medicaid-like quitting their jobs to meet the income restrictions that will allow them to become Medicaid recipients. Why would anybody want to work- being employed is almost more expensive than being unemployed. Childcare, transportation, and of course health insurance-these expenses no longer exist if an individual chooses to stay home. No need to worry about scheduling a doctor’s appointment around the demands of an employer-just go on welfare, and the whole day will be open!
If less people in Missouri
choose to work, what will happen to the economy? When people work, they spend money-and when people spend money, that means the economy is stable. Critics argue that the economy will actually become worse if the budget cuts are reversed, because tax rates will increase- but taxes have nothing to do with the economy. Taxes are like gasoline prices-people expect them to be higher than what they would like them to be, so they reluctantly go ahead and pay them. Besides, the wealthy don’t become wealthy by spending their money on frivolous things; it can be assumed that the working poor and middle class residents of Missouri spend more money (when they aren’t throwing it away on medical bills) than those individuals with higher incomes.
While some residents of Missouri
may feel that they should not be responsible for the well-being of others, they have no clue about the important role that every individual plays in this world. The uninsured little boy down the street that died from health-related complications could have been the president of the United States one day. That twenty year old female working at the local coffee shop may have discovered the cure for AIDS- imagine what would have become of her, had she been able to spend her paycheck on a college education instead of overdue medical bills. Missouri is a mess, but reversing the Medicaid cuts of 2005 will help it rebuild itself-medical fraud will decrease, employment rates will increase, and the overall state of the economy will improve.
“About the MO HealthNet Division.” Missouri Department of Social Services. 5 Apr. 2008 <http://www.dss.mo.gov/mhd/general/pages/about.htm>.
Beale, Howard. “First Steps/Medicaid Cuts.” Fired Up! Missouri. 8 Feb. 2008. 5 Apr. 2008 <http://www.firedupmissouri.com/taxonomy/term/10>.
“How to Qualify for Disability.” Disability Secrets. <http://www.disabilitysecrets.com/page5-38.html>.
Martin, Brent. “Nixon Campaign Will Focus on Healthcare Cuts.” Missourinet. 9 Mar. 2008. 5 Apr. 2008 <http://www.missourinet.com/gestalt/rss.cfm?objectid=932707E3-C09F-1E1C-6B9998E74F1DCDC9&searchterm=Matt%20Blunt>.
“Medicaid Myths Vs. Facts.” The Missouri
Budget Project. Dec. 2005. 5 Apr. 2008 <http://www.mobudget.org/Medicaid%20myth%20and%20facts%20dec%202005.pdf>.
Young, Virginia. “A New Health Plan for Poor in Missouri.”
St. Louis Post Dispatch 7 Apr. 2008, St. Charles ed., sec. B: b1+.