Sunday, July 10, 2011

Concerned about the Current State of Affairs

As most congressional interns will agree working on the Hill is an amazing experience. Not only are we exposed to the daily functioning of an office or a committee, interns have access to panoply of educational opportunities including the Congressional Intern Lecture Series.

One of the lectures I attended this past week was given by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. As I listened to her speak I could not stop thinking about the current discussions taking place throughout the nation as it becomes ever more apparent that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are the likely targets of fiscal downsizing.

What most American’s do not know about the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid system is that people with disabilities are severely penalized in the current policy framework. Take for example this Social Security/Medicare Policy: After a person files and is approved for Social Security Disability benefits they will not receive any Social Security income for three months. After the first Social Security check is received people with disabilities must wait an additional 24 months before they can enroll in Medicare insurance coverage.

This means a person with a disability has to survive 27 months without any form of medical insurance because the income received from their Social Security Disability benefit is too substantial (by substantial I mean their income, for most states, is more than $600 per month) to be eligible for Medicaid.

The fiscal, social, and political ramifications of this policy are enormous. Emergency room visits dramatically increase as infections rates increase, this creates a huge financial burden on hospitals that then mark-up their costs in billing to insurance companies which then raise rates and premiums on individual health insurance plans. Does this seem like sound financial policy?

Imagine your own entire monthly income is $600. Where do you live? How do you eat? What if you have children? What if you are in a wheelchair and something breaks how will get around? What if you want to work but don’t have insurance to provide you with necessary physical and occupational therapy that would allow you to rejoin the workforce and not live on $600 a month?

What would you do?


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