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

LeeAnn Hall

LeeAnn Hall Co-Director, People's Action

Imagine telling a laid-off employee they won’t have Medicaid to fall back on. On January 11, the Trump administration issued this 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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Reposted from Our Future

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Campaign for America's Future

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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A Friendly Reminder

A Friendly Reminder