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The real Medicaid numbers

A generation ago, it was the Cadillac queen on welfare: The woman driving an expensive car to pick up her welfare check, which she’d spend on steak, liquor and lotsa high livin’ . . . and it turned out to be, as you might expect on actual reflection, a much-repeated tale that was in fact an urban myth: She didn’t exist. If she had, she would have been an oddity, a fluke case.

Maybe this Medicaid story making the rounds in Facebook (a couple of friends there posted it) is actually based on a real incident. It comes from a Mississippi physician who treated a patient in the emergency room, “whose smile revealed an expensive shiny gold tooth, whose body was adorned with a wide assortment of elaborate and costly tattoos, who wore a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and who chatted on a new cellular telephone equipped with a popular R&B ringtone.” His takeaway was that ” a culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money on luxuries and vices while refusing to take care of one’s self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance.”

Which drew in some places around the nets a loud, “right on . . .”

The references by the writer to the patient’s use of cigarettes, alcohol and junk food – failing to take care of his own health, in other words – were logical. Less so the rest. Most took part replacements of gold are not, contraintuitively, the most expensive but rather the cheapest (and you might assume that kind of dental work wasn’t discretionary). The cultural knicknacks may be discretionary enough, but buying them all, even in bulk, wouldn’t have mattered: The price of a month’s decent health insurance would cost many multiples of what all those items taken together do. But it makes but a rousing emotional story.

A little like one out of Utah that has caught some interest in Idaho. There, state Representative Ronda Menlove proposed that some Medicaid patients (exactly which seems as yet a little unclear) be required to work at community service.

In Idaho, state Representative Steve Thayne, R-Emmett, was quoted as saying, ”I think it would work. Medicaid recipients would be able to demonstrate gratitude or pay back the community. It would, at the very least, give them a sense of self-worth.”

Evidently, they’d be worthless if they couldn’t work.

The Twin Falls Times News, in an editorial calling the work-for-Medicaid proposal “a dumb idea,” offered the most pertinent relevant information: Who exactly has Medicaid assistance. In Idaho (and this is probably somewhat similar to most states), 63% are children. (Should they be put to work?) 22% are disabled (how about them?). Eight percent, elderly (yes?). And another seven percent, with a wide range of circumstances. Might some of them be able to contribute some sort of community service? Maybe.

And if one can be found, you’ll probably be hearing all about standing in for all those lazy Medicaid recipients getting rich off the taxpayers . . .

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