Health Care Gotcha

ACORN Financial Justice Health Care Ideas and Issues Personal Writings

Denver One test of being human must be the capacity to still be shocked no matter how jaded we may have become. Reading the Wall Street Journal this morning on the plane and feeling my anger level rise at least convinced me that I was alive, and given what I was reading, I counted myself lucky on more than one score because this was a terrible tale of health care gotcha with an even worse ironic twist.

Unknown to me, and if any outfit should have known this, ours should have, in 2000 something passed Congress called the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act. In one of the only major industrialized countries in the world that does not provide comprehensive health care protection to its citizens, a loophole was allowed that would provide Medicaid protection to uninsured women who are diagnosed with such cancers, even though these women do not meet the normal eligibility criteria, particularly around income since Medicaid is the government-funded health program exclusively for the poor.

So in a what seems an almost tragic irony, Congress in its wisdom and the government in its peculiarity, decided to play a perverse sort of god here and decide of all of the millions and millions of people now without health care coverage and facing terrible health catastrophes, that they would allow special favor to those beset by a special disease. Run of the mill cancer would not qualify. Prostate cancer or lung cancer would still leave you in wreck and ruin. Somehow the government wanted there to be a “lucky” cancer? In the patchwork mess of our inadequate health system women without health insurance who were “fortunate” enough to have cervical or breast cancer would have protection.

But there was a big, fat catch even to this left-handed slap of a benefit, because Congress allowed there to be a “gotcha” in the legislation so that states could choose to either extend the hand of help or hide the help behind their backs. States were allowed to choose to cover only those women who were diagnosed at clinics that received funding from a special federal cancer detection program. If an uninsured woman was diagnosed in a regular clinic in those states, and there are still twenty-one (21) states like that, then she not only would confront the tragedy and turmoil brought by the cancer, but also the fact that she had no Medicaid coverage regardless of this specially designed legislative health earmark. The story focused on a woman, now deceased, who was beset by such circumstances in Texas, which has now amended its restriction.

The hall of healthcare shame still playing this “gotcha” game on sick women is the following:

Oregon Idaho Montana Wyoming Nevada
Colorado Arizona New Mexico South Dakota New York
North Dakota Minnesota Kansas Missouri Indiana
Alabama Florida Virginia Ohio Pennsylvania Connecticut

There is no rhyme or reason to that list. Some of the states many would think would be more “progressive” about such things like New York, Minnesota, Oregon, or Pennsylvania are as misogynist as the hardscrabble, let them die in the dirt states like Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and the Dakotas. The southern states that like to still pretend that they hold women on a pedestal don’t mind them dying in Florida or Virginia or sweet home Alabama, and a state notorious for its low regard for women like Utah seems Ok with having them protected.

The ACORN Tax and Benefit Access Centers need to make sure that we are alerting women to the clinic channels that will provide them care if they face these challenges. I would think it would have been impossible to hold back ACORN women leaders from making a huge issue and campaign in these “gotcha” states, if they had known about this, but I bet they, like me, were kept in the dark with the mushrooms, just as it was intended.

Let your blood boil with mine, and then let’s do something about this!