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Donald Trump and Republicans across the nation are embarked on a great patriotic mission: governing according to the whims and prejudices of Fox News viewers, who know two things about welfare. They are: 1) government assistance should only be extended to the truly needy; and 2) nobody receiving government assistance is truly needy, because they're all cheats and frauds.

To that noble end, the Trump administration and state governments have been working busily to make programs like Medicaid and food assistance much harder to get, because isn't it important to make sure people are working instead of lazily taking from the taxpayers? This of course ignores the fact that most people receiving assistance already work (or are retired or disabled, or are kids), but remain poor. It's almost as if "the working poor" were a term that meant something. The efforts to add more hoops for people to jump through has certainly done the job, though! The New York Times reports today that over a million children have lost health coverage because of federal and state changes to Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and that's not because their parents got jobs with insurance: They're just plain uninsured.

Another Trump rule set to go into effect will drop about a million kids from receiving food stamps. But that's not all! The same rule change will take away free school lunches from half a million of those kids, too, so they can learn to work hard through hunger pangs at home and school. Just think how much character, hard work, and Personal Responsibility will result!


Go read the whole New York Times piece, which is in-depth and infuriating; the central point, though, is that while the Trump administration and state officials have been pointing to declining Medicaid/CHIP enrollment as a sign of a "strong economy," the reality is far more complex, by which we mean bad for children in states that are determined to boot a lot of people off health care.

Not surprisingly, Trump's head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Seema Verma, thinks things are just dandy:

Unemployment remains low, wage growth is up, & we now see fewer people relying on public assistance [...] That's something to celebrate.

And while that may be true for some people, the Times's analysis of Census data shows that several states with big declines in Medicaid/CHIP enrollment are also seeing "increases in the rate of uninsured children in states with enrollment declines, including Tennessee, Texas, Idaho and Utah." Ha-ha, wouldn't you know it, Texas and Tennessee pols have been bragging about their improving jobs numbers, and have also taken measures designed to kick children off state health coverage.

The schemes even seem to be borrowing techniques from the world of voter suppression, because why not use databases to fuck over poor and brown people in as many ways as possible? Look at this impressive fuckery in the Lone Star State:

Instead of checking eligibility once a year, as many states do, Texas enrolls children for six months and then checks databases for four consecutive months to ensure family income is still low enough to qualify. If the databases show the income has gone over the limit, families are notified by mail and have 10 days to prove otherwise or lose Medicaid.

That appears to be what happened to Kristin Johnson, a Houston woman who took her baby to the ER; his lips were turning blue from lack of oxygen, but she only found out he'd been dropped from Medicaid when they got to the hospital.

"I've been on this emotional roller coaster," Ms. Johnson, 34, said of Elijah's loss of coverage, an error that happened apparently because she didn't respond quickly enough to a letter asking for new proof of income. "It's been a very scary month."

You can almost hear Sean Hannity telling her Well look, lady, if you can't keep up with some simple paperwork to prove you're eligible, maybe you should stay off the public teat.

Tennessee did a complete computer "upgrade" that ended up throwing tens of thousands of kids off Medicaid and CHIP, although the state insists it simply cleared out a "backlog" of old case files. Funny thing, though: The Census data show an increase of 25,000 kids without insurance since the 2016 "upgrade" of the system.

Gordon Bonnyman, co-founder of the Tennessee Justice Center, which has been helping families struggling with lost coverage, was skeptical, saying the state response has revealed "a remarkable lack of curiosity about what happened to these kids."

As the piece goes on to note, these efforts to make sure nobody's "cheating" result in real harm to kids, by cheating them of a future:

A large body of evidence shows that Medicaid coverage for children has lasting effects on their lives, improving their health, educational attainment and even adult earnings. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act made it easier for states to check whether families qualified for Medicaid without requiring them to fill out paperwork, a strategy proven to increase coverage rates. The A.C.A. also made it harder for states to expel poor families for paperwork errors.

The changes helped the uninsured rate among children reach its lowest level ever in 2016, with fewer than 5 percent without coverage.

Gee, if states weren't spending so much on the administrative costs in the name of punishing poor people, there might actually be fewer poor people, huh? But Gettin' Tuff is clearly what Red State America wants. And good Christ, we haven't even touched on the falling enrollment for eligible US citizen kids whose parents are legal immigrants. While the new "public charge" rule specifically won't hurt parents' ability to get a green card if their US-born kids use CHIP or Medicaid, the fear and confusion around the rule has led to parents not enrolling their kids. Exactly as planned, because the first proposal for the rule would have treated CHIP as a "strike" against the parent. Trump's weaponized incompetence strikes again.

As we say, read the whole horrible thing, yell at a member of Congress, and organize.

Then there's the proposal to change eligibility for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP program, aka Food Stamps. As Yr Wonkette discussed in July, the feds are literally changing one part of an entire federal program because a rich guy found a way to qualify for food stamps and complained about it on Fox News, even though his "experiment" only resulted in his getting a few hundred dollars in benefits he didn't strictly qualify for.

The new rule would eliminate what's called "broad-based categorical eligibility" for SNAP, in which people who qualify for other government assistance automatically qualify for SNAP without having to go through a separate application process. As LA Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik explains,

states can deem households eligible for food stamps based on if they're receiving assistance from some other anti-poverty programs. The rule, which has been in effect for about 20 years, also allows states to raise the income eligibility and asset limits to promote SNAP eligibility.

Many also do so to avoid the "benefit cliff," which happens when a modest increase in a family's income results in a complete cut-off of benefits, leaving the family worse off then when its employment income was lower.

Eliminating the rule will kick about 3 million people off SNAP altogether, a million of whom will be children. And according to a USDA estimate, a lot of those kids will subsequently be kicked off the federal free school lunch program, too: Half a million will lose their free school lunch, although if it makes you feel any better, most would still qualify for reduced-price lunches, hooray. But either way, their parents will also have to apply separately for the programs, meaning more will lose the benefit because every goddamn set of applications reduces the number of people using programs, even though they qualify. THAT'S WHY THE PAPERWORK IS ADDED.

And just how much WasteFraudandAbuse will this new rule eliminate in the school lunch program? As Hiltzik notes, citing the USDA estimate,

$90 million a year, or two thousandths of a percent of the $4.4-trillion federal budget. The collateral damage: about half a million children who would no longer be eligible for free school meals.

Again, the costs of saving that little bit of money are very real, Hiltzik points out:

As Hilary Hoynes of UC Berkeley has observed, "the benefits of nutrition support can persist well into adulthood for those who have access to the program before birth and during early childhood." The benefits include improved achievement in school and lower rates of obesity, hypertension and heart disease in adulthood.

All of which also mean lower healthcare costs for everyone farther down the line, as if that mattered. But look at that $90 million savings, woohoo!

It's really impressive, until you remember that, by one conservative estimate, the federal government has spent $109,505,631 of taxpayer money on Donald Trump's visits to his trash palaces, through October 2019. That pays for a lot of CHIP shots.

Thank goodness he's donating his salary to other government agencies, huh?

[LAT / NYT / USDA analysis of rule change]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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