Thursday, June 10, 2004

Punishing the Poor 

The New York Times > Opinion >Punishing the Poor
If you want to see "compassionate" conservatism in action, take a look at Mississippi, a state that is solidly in the red category (strong for Bush) and committed to its long tradition of keeping the poor and the unfortunate in as ragged and miserable a condition as possible.

How's this for compassion? Mississippi has approved the deepest cut in Medicaid eligibility for senior citizens and the disabled that has ever been approved anywhere in the U.S.
The cut in eligibility for seniors and the disabled was the most dramatic component of a stunning rollback of services in Mississippi's Medicaid program. The rollback was initiated by the Republican-controlled State Senate and Mississippi's new governor, Haley Barbour, a former chairman of the national Republican Party. When he signed the new law on May 26, Mr. Barbour complained about taxpayers having to "pay for free health care for people who can work and take care of themselves and just choose not to."

The governor is free to characterize the victims of the cuts as deadbeats if he wants to. Others have described them as patients suffering from diseases like cerebral palsy and Alzheimer's, and people incapacitated by diabetes or heart disease or various forms of paralysis, and individuals struggling with the agony of schizophrenia or other forms of serious mental illness.
Representative Steve Holland, chairman of the House Public Health and Human Services Committee, told me this week: "My heart has been broken and crushed and stomped to pieces over this. I knew this was wrong."

He added, "This governor is my friend, but he's a Republican and his mantra is to starve this beast of big government in Mississippi."
I know I'm a one trick pony lately. I'm hammering the Medicare and Medicaid point because I'm dealing with its consequences everyday. Mississippi is heading for a serious healthcare crisis next month. On July 1st, poor people are suddenly going to face hundreds of dollars in prescription drug bills. Their last safety net is gone.

Bush will lose Mississippi over this. Mark my words.