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Creating a Cycle of Health

By Dr. Kohar Jones

If health is wealth, then lack of access to healthcare is poverty waiting to happen.

Which is, in fact, true.  If you can’t see a doctor when you’re sick, then you stay sick. If you’re a kid, then you miss school.  You don’t learn when you’re not in school.  Maybe you never learn to read.  Perhaps you drop out before you finish high school. You don’t have many job choices.  You don’t make much money with the work you find.  You certainly don’t make as much money as a college graduate.  You don’t have enough money to pay for health insurance, which isn’t covered by the minimum wage hourly work you do find.  When your kids get sick, they stay sick, and miss school, and lo and behold, you’ve started on the next cycle of poverty.

In 1965, the Social Security Amendments starting Medicare and Medicaid promised to stop those cycles of poverty.  Just because you’re poor, Medicaid promised, doesn’t mean you don’t get to see a doctor.  Instead you can try to protect your right to health enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

Article 25

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

The problem is, in the United States, we still view health as a commodity, and not a human right. 

If you can buy it, you’ve got it.

(With the government subsidizing the purchase of health(care) for the poor and elderly starting in 1965, and for everyone under four times the national poverty level starting in 2014.)

But now Texas is threatening to walk away from Medicaid.

With Medicaid, the states and the federal government split the cost of caring for the poor.

By walking away from Medicaid, Texas would stop providing preventive care for the poor, leaving them to get so sick that they eventually land in emergency rooms, where hospitals are legally obligated to give them what then becomes the expensive care they need.

It would cost local homeowners more in county taxes to pay hospitals for unreimbursed care.  More people would get more sick. And Texans would still have to pay for that healthcare, but minus the 60% in matching funds they get from the federal government, including taxes from richer states.

Where’s the sense in this?

Walking away from providing healthcare for the poor is walking away from our basic humanity.  The threat to end Medicaid is cruel and counterproductive. Cutting off access to healthcare creates poverty, creating more need for more care.

Rather than rev up the cycle of poverty as Texas seeks to do by abolishing Medicaid, we need to pursue creative solutions to cutting costs while maintaining Medicaid.  Then we will be able to stop the cycles of poor health and poverty that threaten our nation, and instead create cycles of health and wealth.

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