Massachusetts to Poor: Gotcha!

patrick_deval_764New Orleans Funding problems in Massachusetts has led the state to announce that barring some deal or injection of funds, Commonwealth Care, the mandatory state health plan will stick it to two groups:  legal immigrants and the poor who can be confused.

There is already a righteous uproar about 35000 legal immigrants that are arbitrarily being denied coverage, solely because they are immigrants.  The Massachusetts Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA) and others have already raised their voices appropriately that this is outrageous and Governor Duval Patrick seems to be responding.  I will leave this to them.

But since the poor have been voiceless and the issue goes right squarely to the heart of my frequent discussion raised in my book, Citizen Wealth, I’m going to slam my fist on that table, because, if anything, it may be even more reprehensible.

Buried in the Amy Goodnaught story in the New York Times today (10th paragraph in the middle of the report) is the stand alone sentence with no other explanation and comment, as follows:

“In addition to dropping the immigrant insurance program, Commonwealth Care will save an estimated $63 million by no longer automatically enrolling low-income residents who fail to enroll themselves.”

The air was sucked out of my chest.  This is simply unconscionable.  There are no adjectives that can describe the cynicism that could provoke such a decision.  This is the antithesis of good public policy and an affront to creating either citizen wealth or any semblance of a safety net.

In Citizen Wealth and everywhere I can, I have argued that we need to achieve maximum eligible participation in all programs that have been designed to provide benefits to lower income families but that are lagging at less than full participation to clearly eligible families thereby thwarting the entire purpose of these benefits.  Furthermore, I’ve argued that we have the technical capability to achieve full and automatic participation given the advances in computerization and technology in recent years.  Massachusetts is providing the glaring, terrible, and shameful proof of this capability, but making the small adjustment of turning off the controls from automatic to manual, and knowing that means that enough poor people will fail to get the simple access that by stealing healthcare from the poor they will “save an estimated $65 million.”

If there aren’t organizations and individuals in Massachusetts of all places who will rise up and oppose such a slap at the lowest income citizens, then what is the chance for citizen wealth and real health care protection in the rest of the country?  Where is ACORN when it is most needed?  Where are you Judy Meredith, ace lobbyist for the poor?  Does the Coalition for Human Needs still exist in Massachusetts?  What about Haymarket and Discount?  Where is Lew Finfer right this minute and hundreds of others?

Stop this now!

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