That dermatologist should have won a prize for heroic patience. He was snipping off a slew of skin tags that had overtaken my eyelids during pregnancy. It’s finicky job in normal circumstances; but I made it dicier by asking him to snip as I held my squalling newborn in my arms. It was not my favorite way to spend an afternoon, trying to hush her, trying to stay perfectly still while my eyelids were trimmed.
I was in that ridiculous situation because I had to get the thing done ASAP, while I still had postpartum Medicaid coverage. My husband couldn’t afford to take time off work, and someone was babysitting my other kids, but wouldn’t take the newborn. At the time, my state only covered health care for adults who were elderly, disabled, or pregnant. Once you were done being pregnant, you got booted back off the rolls, and good luck scheduling all the appointments you needed in the thirty days after giving birth.
Lucky for me, I was young and healthy at the time, and excessive skin tags were my most pressing medical issue; so I was able to choose to homeschool and to stay home with my newborn daughter and take my chances with having no health insurance. Lucky for me, it wasn’t until after my state chose to expand Medicaid that I developed nodules on my thyroid and lymph nodes, plus debilitating anxiety.
Lucky for me, I’ve had those conditions treated under state subsidized Medicaid, and now I can go back to living my life, caring for my children, doing my job.
We are, by conservative standards, a model family. We aren’t lazy. We aren’t unemployed. We aren’t promiscuous or godless or druggies or perverts. We love our country. We volunteer. We give to charity. We vote. I’m a dedicated mother, married to a dedicated father who works full time. I work from home so I can care for my kids. We are a heterosexual, married, monogamous couple raising our children to work hard and follow the ten commandments. Our kids study hard and have jobs after school. They volunteer. They go to pro-life marches. They’re all college-bound.
We are a Republican’s dream come true. But we can’t afford to buy health insurance. But we are insured, for now.
THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE. People should be able to go to the doctor when they are sick, even if they are poor. Women should be able to spend some time recovering from childbirth without immediately propelling themselves out of the home and back to work. Women should be able to consider the possibility of staying home with their newborn babies. People ought to be able to live a modest life — such as the kind you find yourself living if you work hard but just can’t inch above the poverty line despite decades of effort — and still be able to go to the doctor when they are sick.
A work requirement for Medicaid says: Don’t you dare be poor and homeschool. Don’t you dare be poor and consider caring for your preschoolers at home. Don’t you dare be poor and give birth to a disabled child who needs round-the-clock care. Don’t you dare be poor and find yourself caring for a disabled family member.
It’s not always laziness that makes people poor. It’s not always laziness that keeps people from earning a paycheck. Life is complicated. Caring for each other is complicated. People can’t just wake up in the morning and decide to have enough money. But Congress could wake up in the morning and decide to give states enough money to pay for healthcare for everyone. God knows they find enough money for the things they do want: endless wars, beautiful walls, you name it. The money is there when they want it to be.
People are going to die.
I’m starting to think that, right there, is the actual Republican’s dream come true.
Image by David Kessler via Flickr (Creative Commons)