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End the Political Gamesmanship of Medicaid

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

For the poor child, the disabled, and the aged, Medicaid is not health insurance…it’s life insurance. It literally means the difference between life and death for almost a million Alabamians.

Is there a sane person who believes that want, infirmity, or debilitating old-age are things we wish for? Yet, there seems to be so many who blame these individuals for what, their lives? .

This is especially true among our ruling class, whose lack of compassion is only exceeded by their ignorance of the issue.

As Victor Hugo wrote in Les Misérables, “There is always more misery among the lower classes than there is humanity in the higher.”

For his entire life, my father carried a cracked, fading, black and white photo of a barefoot, towheaded boy sitting in a field of grass. He was the little boy in that picture, which he said was the last happy day he remembered as a child. Poverty and homelessness would be his existence until a war saved him from the ravages of want and neglect.

Yes, he climbed up and out, but the scars of neediness, and the lesions of the war were ever present and indelible.

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When he was a boy, there was no Medicaid, no CHiPS. He managed to survive, but many didn’t.

Whenever I hear a politician rail against the poor, or disparage by accusing those on government assistance as being freeloaders, I think about my father’s childhood. He, like around 300,000 children in our State, didn’t choose to be poor, neither do the disabled or elderly in our State choose their lot. Want, disease, and sickness are not things desired, they are the ancient plagues hoisted on humanity.

The 2015 Kids Data Book shows the number of Alabama children living in low-income homes has actually increased five percent since 2008, when the Great Recession hit. Almost 300,000 children are living in poverty in Alabama.

Most of these children live in the homes of the working poor, their parents attend to our lawmaker’s families, at cafés, country clubs, and WalMart.

Most of those in nursing homes once carried on productive lives, but now are helpless and without hope.

Is life only precious when in the womb, or is all life precious?

Medicaid is not a luxury, and it should never be a political calculation. Why can’t public men and women, both democrat and republican, admit they use the tools meant to help the disadvantaged as political weapons?

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As I have written many times, far too many of our people are undereducated, underemployed, and unhealthy.

Medicaid, as it stands today, may be a flawed policy but the reality is it is a federal mandate and it’s all we have.

But even at this hour, Speaker Mike Hubbard, a man charged by a Lee County Grand Jury with 23 felony counts of public corruption, is using Medicaid funding as a political football. While Governor Robert Bentley, through either ignorance or obfuscation, is not explaining why the State needs to give Medicaid more than $100 million in new funding. Former State Finance Director, Dr. Henry Mabry, has addressed this in his latest column which shows the new RCOs will actually mean fewer benefits for the state’s aged, blind, and disabled.

The future of Alabama’s poor, disabled, and aged is not a conservative or a liberal issue, it is a human issue that cries out for solutions, not demagoguery. This doesn’t call for a bleeding heart, but a compassionate soul equipped with rational thought.

As the Chairman of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Paul Farmer said, “It is very expensive to give bad medical care to poor people in a rich country.”

How many more poor children, disabled, and aged will have to suffer because the well-fed and comfortably housed refuse to address these issues honestly? How many more will suffer the indignity of sickness, and even death, before our lawmakers end the political gamesmanship of Medicaid?

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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