Arkansas Playing Gotcha with the Poor to Cut Them Off of Medicaid

New Orleans  In a sordid and shameful episode a few weeks ago Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson pridefully announced that the state had managed to bar 4300 people from health care support through Medicaid because of its new work requirement policies.  Seema Verma the head of the federal Center for Medical Services (CMS) who had approved this draconian attack on the poor played clueless cheerleader.

As more information come forward the real evil that underlies this shame emerges.  Let’s look at the facts.

Arkansas began the experiment by exempting two-thirds of the eligible recipients from having to report work hours, knowing this was going to be a problem.  30,000 people were then required to report.  16,000 didn’t report any qualifying activities to the state, either work, training or volunteer time.  In fact, according to the New York Times, “only 1200 about 2% of those eligible for the requirement, told the state they had done enough of the required activities in August, according to state figures.”  That’s pickle-poor!  It screams to a state failure not a people failure, and it foretells thousands more that will be denied coverage.

State officials tried to cover their rear ends, claiming they had done everything possible:  mailings, calls, and even putting out fliers some places where Medicaid patients congregate.  Even more ridiculously they touted the fact that they send emails and posted on social media sites.  Who are they trying to fool?  Arkansas ranks 48th among all of the states in the US in terms of connectivity and 30% of the population is underserved.  230,000 people in Arkansas don’t have any wired internet providers available where they live.  Who wants to guess whether embedded in these sorry statistics lie most of these lower income Medicaid recipients?

Shockingly, the Times then quoted Amy Webb, the chief communications and engagement officer for the Arkansas Department of Human Services saying, “If there’s something we are not doing to reach people, if someone will tell us how to do that, we will do it.”  Yeah, really?  She doesn’t mention that the state legislature forbade any use of media to increase enrollment under the Affordable Care Act.  Nowhere do they claim they were on the television or radio airwaves.  As the manager of KABF, a 100,000-watt noncommercial smack dab in the middle of the state with more than 50,000 listeners per week, more than half of them lower income, I can absolutely tell you we never received a public service announcement from them, much less any support for a real information promotion of the program.

Every other indication is one of abysmal failure.  The state conceded even when they had email address, only 20 to 30% opened the email.  Call centers said many didn’t answer their phones.  A professor from New York visited three counties in August and interviewed 18 people and 12 were unaware that work requirements even existed.  Other experts noted that an incentive system, even a punitive one trying to get more people into the workforce, won’t work if people don’t know about it.  Duh!

Adding injury to injury, all of the work hours are required to be submitted through the internet.  That’s the same internet thing that hundreds of thousands of Arkansans are not able to access, and even with access are not necessarily all-pro at using the state’s clunky website.

State officials in Arkansas need to start some truth telling.  These so-called work requirements are nothing of the kind.  This a pure and simple way to push eligible people off of Medicaid.  Hopefully a coming court hearing will stop this hypocrisy.

In the meantime, this is a scandal that none of us should be able to stomach.

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Please enjoy Johnny Guitar from Twisted Wheel.

Thanks to KABF.

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Running for President on $1000 Per Month

source: hueylong.com

New Orleans      Huey Long, a former Senator and Governor of Louisiana, launched “Share the Wealth” clubs across the country with Gerald L. K. Smith as his acolyte and chief organizer in a populist challenge to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Great Depression.   On Wade’s World,  I recently interviewed Andrew Yang, a techster, entrepreneur, and advocate for universal basic income as his key plank, who has thrown his hat into the ring to run for president as well.   If Long’s slogan was “a chicken in every pot,” Yang’s might be, “vote for me and it’s a grand a month for everyone.”

In his book, The War on Normal People, Yang outlines his argument for universal basic income, which is also excerpted in the current issue of Social Policy.  The heart of it is guaranteeing every American $1000 per month.  One of the reasons he argues his plan will work where others have not been as successful is in fact because he is advocating for more money.  Some of the plans getting a lot of publicity in Stockton, California and in Finland are half of that, more in the neighborhood of $500 per month.  Yang’s position is that we need a major step up.

We can all do the math and measure the leap here.  Full-time work at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is only a little over $15,000 per year, and I know I’m repeating myself, but that’s assuming a full 40-hour week for 52 weeks a year, that is becoming harder and harder for many workers to achieve.  $12,000 a year on Yang’s plan almost gets you where minimum wage would.  Add the two together and each worker might be getting $27,000 per year.  Like Yang’s plan or not, we all have to admit the impact of such an increase would make a world of difference on all counts of family income security.

Is it practical?  Yang argues that his Freedom Dividend would be a direct income transfer and unlike welfare programs would not require an elaborate bureaucratic structure to administer.  Everyone just gets a check.  There is some savings as well by consolidating existing programs, but the heart of Yang’s concept is that we can afford to do better, so why aren’t we doing it.  As evidence he cites a small pilot of one-hundred families at $1000 per month funded by tech folks at Y Combinator, so we’ll see soon enough.

Yang also argues that time is running out on our choices here.  Like others in Silicon Valley, he argues that technological change and automation are no longer in the by-and-by, but only months or several years away from reality, for example self-driving trucks which he believes are 98% already here.

Yang’s chances of being president may be on the long-shot spectrum, but the ideas he’s advancing for Universal Basic Income have been around for years from the National Welfare Rights Organization’s fights in the Nixon era to the Alaska oil dividend, so his cry in the wilderness now may be on every street corner soon.

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Please enjoy Lucas Ciliberti’s American Girls.
Thanks to KABF.

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