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Trump’s Gift for the Unemployed: Kicking Them Off Health Care

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Photo by James Lee | CC BY 2.0

On January 11, the Trump administration issued a cruel announcement: If you can’t find a job, don’t count on being able to get health care.

Under an unprecedented new policy, the administration will let states kick people off Medicaid for the crime of being unemployed. Instead of providing good jobs to struggling people, the administration is offering threats and tougher times.

Those hurt could include the Carrier plant workers from Indiana, whose jobs Trump promised to save when he was campaigning for the presidency. Last year, the company announced 600 layoffs.

Now the last of these employees are being pushed out the door. One worker says she’s “a lost paycheck away from homeless.”

Imagine telling her Medicaid won’t be there for her on top of everything else she’ll lose. The heartlessness is incomprehensible.

Still, her state’s governor is one of ten that’s jumping on the administration’s new proposal to require work or work-related activities. Kentucky’s plan has already been approved.

This is no way to treat people you claim to care about — especially when lawmakers can improve our lives with policies providing child care, paid family and medical leave, and living-wage jobs in a clean-energy economy, to say nothing of affordable health care for all.

Simple facts show that this work requirement isn’t about jobs. Most working-age adults who use Medicaid already work, and many of them have jobs thanks to Medicaid — not despite it.

That’s because Medicaid helps them get and stay healthy enough to work. After Ohio expanded Medicaid, three quarters of those who signed up said getting coverage helped them get work. In Michigan, more than two-thirds also said it helped better at a job they already had.

This policy is another blow for those facing racial or other discrimination on the job. It punishes people in job-scarce communities. It hurts people struggling to find work when they have a past criminal conviction.

And, while the administration says people with disabilities won’t be affected, that could be by only by the strictest definition of disability. Those who’ve been hurt on the job won’t necessarily be protected. Neither may many people struggling with addiction, mental health concerns, or physical conditions that make working difficult or impossible.

We can see from Kentucky’s plan what this could look like. New premiums for struggling families. Paperwork lockouts. A financial or health “literacy test” reminiscent of tests that barred African American people from voting. State officials say 90,000-95,000 people will lose their coverage.

Last year, Americans demanded we not go backwards on health care. Thousands of us showed up at town halls to block the GOP effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the gutting of Medicaid.

Everyone should get the care they need.

The expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act was a step in that direction. It gave many of us hope for the country we can be: one where a family’s fortunes don’t depend on the good graces of a giant corporation, and our lives don’t depend on the size of our wallet.

We still have a long way to go. Many are shut out of health care because of citizenship status, because coverage is still too expensive, or because our states refuse to expand Medicaid.

But the Trump administration and GOP Congress are moving us backward. This new Medicaid scheme is just part of it. There’s also the recent tax bill that will raise insurance premiums while giving huge cuts to corporations like Carrier — which, according to one employee facing layoffs, is “getting money hand over fist.”

Americans want health care expanded, not taken away. They can’t trick us with yet another scheme. Let’s raise our voices again and protect Medicaid.

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LeeAnn Hall is the co-director of People’s Action and a member of the executive committee of Health Care for America Now. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

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