Romney slammed for heartlessness about “very poor,” but what about people like Coffman who think Medicaid expansion is “very radical?”
Even people like Colorado Sen. Greg Brophy, who’s told me he’s willing to put the health, and even lives, of poverty-stricken kids at risk by charging more for state health insurance, says it’s hard to decide what to do about Medicaid, given the complexities involved and the struggles of the poor, especially kids.
That’s the tenor of the debate about cutting Medicaid in Colorado. It’s not like the Republicans want to do it, we read in the media, because they know that cutting money for poor people can cause hardship, sickness, and even death.
But there’s a budget problem (assuming we don’t want to raise taxes on the vulnerable 1 percent) and, besides, skin should be inserted in the game.
When Mitt Romney changes the tone of the conversation about poverty, and says brazenly, “I’m not concerned about the very poor,” that’s news.
And rightly so, because in America, we’re supposed to care about each other, and our country is supposed to provide basic opportunity for everyone, right? And, as the debate about Medicaid shows, no one’s saying, let the poor get sick and die.
But what about proposals to expand Medicaid? These proposals save lives, yet politicians go around trashing the Medicaid-expansion aspects of Obamacare day in and day out, with near media immunity, as if saving poverty-stricken Americans from sickness and death is so outrageous.
You don’t have to search very hard to find examples, but I’ll use one from Rep. Mike Coffman, who, as I’ve written, deserves more media scrutiny now that he’s in a competitive district.
Coffman told Mike Rosen during the debate on health care that “there are some very radical elements to [Obamacare] such as the expansion of Medicaid, a government run healthcare program.”
Very radical elements? Sounds like communists are hiding in the bill, but Rosen treated the statement like normal air.
It turns out that, from perspective of anyone who is concerned about the very poor, Republicans and Democrats alike, the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare isn’t so radical.
It sets a national standard for Medicaid eligibility at 133 percent of the poverty level, which amounts to about $30,000 for a family of four, according to Elisabeth Arenales, Health Program Director at Colorado Center for Law and Policy.
“Across the country, most people who are poor, if they are childless adults, unless they are disabled, don’t have access to Medicaid,” Arenales told me. “It’s setting a uniform framework.”
Arenales says the Medicaid expansion under Obmacare would also benefit early retirees, under age 65, who run into health problems.
As you can imagine, health insurance is expensive for people around 65, who have health problems. Under Obmacare, these retirees with very low incomes will be covered by Medicaid, Arenales said.
She points to another example of an early retiree whose kids are grown, gets cancer, exhausts COBRA, and spends all their money on treatment. Under Obamacare, these people get treated under Medicaid. It gives them an option.
“You see those stories,” Arenales said.
I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a debate about whether to cut or expand Medicaid, but my point is, why do we give the silent treatment to the Coffmans of the world who say Medicaid expansion is so radical, while a guy like Mitt Romney is slammed for making a similarly extreme statement that he’s “not concerned about the very poor.”