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War on the Poor

Greetings WAC Community,

 

Why have you afflicted us so that we cannot be healed? 

We hoped for peace but no good has come, for a time of healing but there is only terror.

 – Jeremiah 14:19

 

In the 1960’s, President Johnson declared the War on Poverty.  In 2017, I see a shift to a War on the Poor.  Tinkering with Medicaid that provides health insurance for our most vulnerable is one of the attacks on the poor.  The decisions that the U.S. Congress is making now could reverse progress made fifty years ago.

 

April 27th the Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Committee of the Wyoming State Legislature met in Casper for interim work.  I was there to hear Tom Forslund, director of the Wyoming Department of Health, present Medicaid 101 at the request of the committee.  Congress approved both Medicaid along with Medicare in 1967.  The states could decide whether to accept Medicaid, which Wyoming did in 1969, whereby the federal government and the state each pay one-half of the costs.

 

Nursing home care is where a large portion of Wyoming’s Medicaid goes.  Another large portion goes to Wyoming’s community hospitals.  A high percentage of Wyoming’s health care providers accept Medicaid payments.  To receive Medicaid insurance coverage, patients must meet the income and asset eligibility standards. Wyoming has the very highest costs per patient for Medicaid for the elderly compared to other states in the nation.  On the other hand, our per capita costs for children with Medicaid coverage are one of lowest.

 

Medicaid since its inception has operated as an insurance policy.  If the Medicaid covered patient receives qualifying health care, the bill is paid to the provider up to the qualifying amount with state and the federal funds.

 

What will Medicaid be like in the future?  No one knows.  One proposal is that Medicaid would be a block grant to the state, which Director Forslund says is a concern because the amount needed in Wyoming may vary based on changes in the economy and other variables.  The state would have to decide who and where to cut.  Another proposal being discussed is that the state would get a set amount for each person enrolled in Medicaid.  Either way would not be good and concerns Wyoming’s legislators and health care providers.  It should concern our churches if we are truly here for the poor, for healing and for justice.

 

This last week, the U.S. House passed a bill called the American Health Care Act.   The bill would fundamentally change the federal role in financing care for the poorest people in the nation by capping the federal contribution to Medicaid, resulting in both federal savings and substantial cuts in federal Medicaid support over time, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.  The bill does much more.  I do not pretend to understand all the details and implications of the bill, except that it is extremely complex and, if enacted, would benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor and most vulnerable.

 

There is something you can do.  The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate.  Let our two Senators know that keeping Medicaid is important to Wyoming’s most vulnerable.  If anything, it should be expanded to the 20,000 people in Wyoming between the ages of 19-65 who are not eligible because they do not have minor children.  Call their Wyoming offices at 307-772-2477 for Sen. Mike Enzi and at 307-772-2451 for Sen. John Barrasso.

 

Fear not. Be bold. Do justice.

 

Blessings,

Chesie Lee

 

The Wyoming Association of Churches appreciates your many financial gifts for our justice work in Wyoming.  Click Here. Or you may mail checks to PO Box 1473, Laramie, WY 82073.

 

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