Underneath the potentially dry data involved with health care reporting are millions of untold human stories — the Americans saved by the social safety net, the Americans left in destitution when the safety net is cut, and the Americans sometimes struggling to receive help from that net even when it is in place.
Harold Pollack, a University of Chicago Professor, sits at the intersection of those two realities. While blogging on health care and public policy for The Incidental Economist, Pollack and his wife Veronica also spent the last eight years caring for Veronica’s brother Vincent, who is intellectually disabled and suffers a variety of other medical conditions requiring regular and expensive treatment. Medicare and Medicaid played a crucial role in the Pollacks’ ability to care for Vincent without sacrificing their family’s economic security or the academic future of their two daughters.
To illustrate the human costs of the GOP’s proposed cuts to these social services — in addition to their plan to shift Medicare into a premium support system, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have proposed to cut Medicaid by a third over the next decade — Pollack recently produced a video to tell his family’s story. Watch it:
Vincent is one of the 9 million “dual eligibles” who receive support from both Medicare and Medicaid. Those who are eligible for both programs are the poorest and sickest of Americans, and Medicaid in particular helps them cover premiums, co-payments, dental care, and of course the long-term and nursing home care so many of the elderly rely on. Slashing Medicaid by $810 billion through 2022 would cut this support off at the knees. Medicaid’s reimbursement rates are already significantly lower than Medicare’s, making it a stringently spartan program. Romney and Ryan’s cuts would drive these rates still lower, or force 14 to 27 million Americans out of the program entirely. (That’s not counting the other 17 million who would be forced out be their repeal of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.)
As much of America’s politics remains fixated on lower taxes and shrinking government, it’s worth remembering the Pollacks and the millions like them — and remembering that the care they receive is the care we as a country are willing to pay for.