By Nicole Braun
Depending upon your state of residency, you might have a harder time getting and keeping Medicaid. By sheer luck of geography, folks in some states have more of a safety net than their neighbors in other states.
Medicaid was created in 1965 by Lyndon Johnson and was authorized by the Title XIX of the Social Security Act. It was designed to provide health coverage for the elderly, low income folks, and women and children.
The Affordable Care Act – aka Obamacare – expanded this vital lifeline for families. The health care law saved lives because it helped millions of folks finally get access to care, some for the first time in their lives.
Unfortunately, since the law was passed, Republicans have been systemically trying to destroy it. And they’ve had a lot of help from the states.
I live in Michigan. This past summer, outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed off on a bill that requires Medicaid recipients to work, making it more difficult for folks to keep their health care.
This is concerning on many levels.
For one thing, many folks who rely on Medicaid are simply unable to work because they have physical or mental health challenges. Furthermore, most adults who receive Medicaid are already working for pay. They need the coverage because their employers don’t provide it.
I grew up near Flint during better days for the auto industry. Most of my friends’ parents had health coverage for their families through their jobs, but times have changed. Well-paying jobs with benefits have been on a steady decline for more than 40 years.
Knowing this is tragic enough. But when it hits your own family, it’s much worse.
A couple weeks ago, I received a notice that my loved one’s Medicaid was going to be canceled within a week. I panicked.
I tried calling a case worker at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) multiple times over many days, but she never called me back. I called the supervisor multiple times as well, to no avail. Finally I called the supervisor of the supervisor, but still had no luck.
The only “luck” I had was when I finally managed to get through to the front desk at DHHS.
Relieved, I said, “I am calling because I received a termination notice for Medicaid for my family member. If he loses his insurance he could die, as he is on life-saving medication. This is an emergency and I have been trying to get in touch with his case manager for days.”
“Ma’am,” the front desk reception at DHHS said with a bored and irritated tone, “Everyone’s situation is an emergency.”
Then he hung up on me.
This was devastating. But I don’t blame our government-run health care program. I blame our government’s insufficient commitment to health care, which puts layers of cruel bureaucracy between people and care.
That’s exactly what Michigan and other states are doing with these onerous paperwork requirements.
Health care is the No. 1 issue Americans are concerned with. If health care can’t be accessed through our employers, and if many people are still without care despite the Affordable Care Act, now’s the time to create a system that cuts out work and income requirements – and all those conversations about “who’s most deserving” or “who really needs it.” It also will remove the extensive paperwork involved as well.
Nicole Braun is an adjunct sociology professor in northern Michigan.