Monday, March 17, 2008

The Party Of Straw Man Issues

After seven years of a Republican Congress and rubber stamp White House, 2008 saw the countries economy convulsing. We were inundated with years of phony wedge issues and imagined systemic social/economic problems. In that time conservatives weakened many important social safety nets for the disadvantaged while erecting economic obstacles so high many who currently received government services were shut out. Take Medicaid, for instance.

Who could have imagined the devastating impact of illegal aliens defrauding Medicaid out of millions of taxpayer dollars? That’s right, if you guessed the Republicans imagined it, then your starting to catch on. Like all the other manufactured threats to our democracy, like voter fraud, the death tax and the need for tort reform, illegal immigrants were getting free health care at the public’s expense.

In a March ’08 AARP Bulletin article written by Barbara Basler entitled, “Are You American? Prove It,” she details the story of Bernice Todd, a Native American and cancer victim, who lost here Medicaid coverage because of a new federal law that required paper work she didn’t have so she could prove she was a U.S. citizen.”

It’s a rule aimed at keeping illegal immigrants off the Medicaid rolls, plain and simple.

“A July 2006 rule was adopted by the Republican-dominated Congress in 2005 despite the fact that there was no evidence that undocumented immigrants were falsely claiming U.S. citizenship to get Medicaid.”

"This rule was the answer to a problem that really doesn’t exist," says Donna Cohen Ross, an analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, a nonpartisan research organization.

“A report by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) inspector general did 'not find particular problems regarding false allegations of citizenship, nor are we aware of any.’ Most states agreed with that assessment.”

This new federal rule also blows another Republican myth: that their fiscally conservative. To stem the tide of illegal immigrants stealing our health care, Kansas added $1 million to their budget just to handle the cost of the new rule, even though they had no problem with illegal immigrants getting Medicaid.

“But many states report that the rule is backfiring, forcing U.S. citizens, most of them children and the working poor, to lose their Medicaid health coverage. In Oklahoma, for example, more than 20,000 of its 700,000 Medicaid recipients—almost 13 percent are American Indians—have been dropped from the program, "not because they aren't citizens, but because they're having a tough time coming up with the right pieces of paper at the right time,’ says Mike Fogarty, chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the agency overseeing Medicaid.”

“A U.S. Government Accountability Office survey of the states last year found that that the requirement caused eligible U.S. citizens to lose Medicaid coverage while increasing administrative costs. A close analysis of six states, the report says, showed that for every $100 spent to implement the rule, only 14 cents was saved.”

“Oklahoma has uncovered no illegal immigrants on its rolls. And Arizona, where immigration is a huge issue, has filed two reports since the rule went into effect, each saying the state uncovered ‘zero’ illegal immigrants among its 1 million Medicaid recipients.”

Another non-problem solved. It does make me wonder though, just how do these conservative monsters sleep at night?

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