Takedown: The Luxury of Medicaid

Oh good. I was hoping that Some eCards would be overtaken by assholes.

This week’s crapdate comes from Pinterest, which I don’t even know how to use but has apparently become a breeding ground for all things awesome as well as terrible. If you search “Thanks for showing up to the state-funded health care clinic” in Google images, it pops right up, although it appears that Some eCards has deleted it. The removal of it restores my faith in humanity, at least temporarily.

Even though the card itself is gone from Some eCards (for now – although anybody can make them, so it’s likely to pop back up, like here), the image and the sentiment are out there and need to be addressed.

Some eCards and Medicaid
Awesome. And by awesome, I mean really, really shitty.

Oh, boy. Let’s start with the racism.

Now, one could argue that “hair weave” is not referring to any particular race, because anybody can get a weave. One would be lying about the intent of the card, and backpedaling. Do a Google Image search for “hair weave.” Last time I tried, there were 37 pictures of Black women before I got to the first picture of a White woman. As a matter of fact, of the hundreds of pictures that show up on the first page, there were only a handful of people who are not Black. Anybody can get a hair weave, but in this case, the language was specifically used to evoke a certain image. You know the image. The Welfare Queen.

“This narrative script skillfully locating the “intersection” of race and gender was given its most public voice by then-candidate Reagan on the 1976 campaign trail. During that election Reagan often recited the story of a woman from Chicago’s South Side who was arrested for welfare fraud. “She has 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names.””¦The implicit racial coding is readily apparent. The woman Reagan was talking about was African- American. Veiled references to African-American women, and African-Americans in general, were equally transparent. In other words, while poor women of all races get blamed for their impoverished condition, African-American women commit the most egregious violations of American values. This story line taps into stereotypes about both women (uncontrolled sexuality) and African-Americans (laziness).”

(From Gilliam, Franklin (1999) “The ‘Welfare Queen’ Experiment: How Viewers React to Images of African-American Mothers on Welfare”. Nieman Reports 53.)

The author of the eCard is quite clearly, and effectively, evoking the same image. It’s funny, see? Because Black women are lazy and greedy, and they are all cheating the system. Funny!

Except for the fact that it is a “truism” that is absolutely, 100% false. Since the Welfare Queen image is about welfare, here’s a handy chart breaking down the recipients of SNAP, what used to be known as Food Stamps.

Who is getting food stamps?
Hmm. Most people who are getting food stamps are...white. Taken from http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0572.pdf

Approximately 1/5 of the recipients of food stamps are Black. Not 90%. Or even half.

And since the eCard deals with Medicaid, here are the recipients of Medicaid:

The average person who gets Medicaid is...White. From http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparebar.jsp?ind=158&cat=3

The most common recipient of Medicaid is White, with an even bigger margin between Whites and Blacks than what we see with SNAP. According to stereotypes (and from what the media portrays), nearly all of the recipients of Medicaid are Black. From the same article quoted above:

“Thus, as seen through the eyes of the media, there are more blacks than whites who live in poverty. [Yale political scientist] Gilens also found that the public dramatically overestimates the number of African-Americans in poverty and similarly, in our surveys, we find that people underestimate the number of poor whites.”

The eCard perpetuates harmful stereotypes, and to be frank, is an asshole-being-an-asshole based on the racial implications alone. Let’s push aside the infuriating racial overtones, though, and look at the rest of the card.

You know what you can tell about a person’s income by the way they look? Nothing. Nothing. Having a low income does not mean that you are required to look like shit all the time. I know, I know. Medicaid should only go to people who never shower and wear wrongly sized, rotting clothing. Otherwise, they just aren’t shameful enough.

Oh wait. That’s ludicrous.

Sometimes, and I know this is going to be a shock, sometimes people receive presents from their loved ones. Even poor people. Should a poor person refuse a gift that is something they normally wouldn’t be able to afford because it is nice? Or leave it in the closet in case people talk? Once you are poor, do you lose the right to touch nice things?

Let’s imagine that the person in question is appropriately ashamed of their inability to pay for health insurance and, like all good second-class citizens, has refused any gifts from well-meaning people who don’t understand that if you are on Medicaid you should not be able to enjoy anything. Medicaid exists as a short-term helping hand to those who cannot afford our ridiculously overpriced health care. If you are suddenly out of a job, does that mean you should throw away all of the things that you bought when you had a job? Once you lose your health insurance, does somebody arrive at your house to take inventory and clean out all of the rich-person stuff?

That is also ludicrous, but beyond that, it is a terrible idea. Medicaid is intended to be a temporary help, which means that all of us are rooting for the recipient to get a job that carries health insurance. The fact is, appearance matters on job interviews. It shouldn’t. But it does. The person in question is more likely to be able to get back on their feet if they are dressed professionally and taking care of their appearance.

Most of the people spreading this bullshit want “entitlement” programs to end. The best way to get somebody out of Medicaid is to get them into a job with benefits; jobs with benefits are hard to get if you don’t look put together at the interview.

And let’s not forget that the focus of this card is a Black woman, and Black hair is more than just hair. A choice of hairstyle, including the choice to forgo a weave, is a political statement. I hate to say that it is, but it is, and for many, a weave is not simply an accessory: it is an important part of their identity. And a factor in their employability.

But even if we ignore all of that, even if we assume that our hero has given up all gifts, sold all daily comforts, and given up part of her identity because that is the only appropriate thing for poor people to do, the crapdate is still crap.

Here’s a Louis Vuitton handbag on eBay for $85. Or hey, one for $39. I’m pretty sure that’s a knockoff, but I can’t tell from looking at it. Neither can you, asshole-who-wrote-the-crapdate. A $40, one-time cost.

But they have nice nails! So they must be greedy lying assholes.

Except first, how does the person who wrote the crapdate know about the Medicaid recipient’s toes? But even if they do: here’s a kit (not the cheapest one, but it looks decent) from Amazon for $15. Add $8 for a fancy bottle of nail polish, and you’ve got yourself about 20 mani/pedis for $23 total.

Or, if you already have the kit, or if somebody gave you the nail polish, it is only right for a person on Medicaid to chew their nails to the quick and dip their fingers in acid. People on Medicaid do not deserve to feel pretty.

I don’t know how the crapdate poster knows that the person in question has on MAC lip gloss, but a quick internet search tells me that MAC lip glosses cost about $10 and last for months.

And the hair weave. According to eHow, they can range from $12 to $3000 – my guess is that if you can tell that it’s a weave by looking at the person, they have chosen a lower-end product, possibly even clip-ons. The existence of a weave in and of itself does not say anything about a person’s income.

So, even if the crapdate poster’s suspicions are all (gasp!) true, you can get a bag for $40 (let’s say that’s once a year ““ so $3.50 per month), $20 for two months’ worth of manicures and pedicures ($10 or so per month), $10 for several months’ of lip gloss (let’s say $3.50 per month), and the most common type of hair weave can be had for about $300 and lasts about four months ($75 per month). All of this is assuming that the person has paid for all of this on their own and has chosen products that are mid-level. $92 dollars. An individual health plan costs $248.75 a month in 2009. This is assuming no major health issues and also assuming that the policy holder has no dependents. Sure, the person could set aside all of that money for a year so that at the end of the year, they could get 5 months of health insurance coverage, but during that time, they would have less of a chance of getting a job and would be letting any health problems build up while they wait, and generally being uninsured, which costs the average insured family an extra $1000 in annual premiums.

But even if on principle you don’t care, even if you think that poor people should not have the audacity to own things, even if you don’t mind perpetuating a system wherein it is impossible to get a job or get insurance because you are constantly working at a deficit, even if you think that your non-Medicaid status makes you superior and that those using government assistance (hint: that’s just about everybody) should be groveling in their own shit – your logic is simply terrible.

The truth of the matter is that in order to qualify for Medicaid, you must prove your eligibility. Look, here’s a 22-page document about how it happens. If you are too busy being sanctimonious to look at the document, though, here is a quick reference. To apply for Medicaid, you must show: proof of identity, proof of residence, marital status, citizenship status, utility expenses, life insurance policies, pay stubs, W-2 forms, social security benefit statements, bank account statements, certificates of deposits, savings bonds, vehicle titles, deeds, brokerage account statements, and mutual fund statements, among other things. When I was on WIC, the application process was arduous and time-consuming, and the burden of proof was on me to show that I was in need. As a side note: at that time, I was constantly drinking expensive beverages from Starbucks. Because my second job was as a barista, and I got them for free. They were a symptom of how hard I was working and for how little pay, rather than a sign that I was lazy and greedy.

But I digress. A person who qualifies for Medicaid has proven that they qualify. They don’t have to prove anything to you, crapdate poster, who thinks that you have the right to judge every aspect of their appearance. And because you believe that you are qualified to conjure up income based on nail polish, that makes you feel superior to all of those dirty, gross poor people.

Which is what this really comes down to. Poor people are dirty, and poor people are gross, and poor people have done something to get themselves into that situation. They are different than you, and they are guilty for their hardships. Believing this allows you to put up a wall between them and you (they are dirty and gross, you are clean and lovely), as well as ensure that you will never fall on hard times yourself (you don’t spend money on things like MAC lip gloss). But it doesn’t work. Everybody in this country is one medical emergency away from poverty, and nobody is immune from bad luck. What it does do, though, is point out that you are an asshole who feels small inside, and one who uses socioeconomic status and race to try to elevate your own self-esteem.

So even as you post a card that thanks Medicaid recipients for having the gall to own a purse, I thank you for showing your true colors, so I can stay far away from you in the future.

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I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

74 thoughts on “Takedown: The Luxury of Medicaid”

  1. When I applied for SNAP and Medicaid, it felt like the mid ’90s Welfare Reforms all over again.

    After filling out several pages of paperwork with incredibly vague questions (the paperwork wound up triggering my Bipolar multiple times, joy), I had to go in for an interview. When I arrived, the receptionist asked if I was sure more than once (probably because I’m white & “well dressed” in my second hand clothes). The interviewer called my name, and when I walked up to her, she asked if I needed anything or had gotten lost, scanning the waiting area for someone who looked like they needed to be there. After humiliating questions about why my mother doesn’t pay all the bills on her own & why I am not currently working, I was told that I could not have SNAP because I’m a university student (since students don’t eat, apparently), and I couldn’t have Medicaid because I’m over 18, under 65, and haven’t applied for disability (since no other people ever need health care).

    All of this makes me afraid to apply for disability, even though my psychologist thinks it’s a good idea, & both of my conditions (Bipolar II and C-PTSD) are recognized disabilities. What will they want me to do to prove that I’m ill?

    1. God, I absolutely HATE the student criteria for SNAP benefits. It varies state by state, but in mine, if you are at least a half-time student and able-bodied, you have to work at least 20 hours per week, be enrolled in a federal work study program, or have a dependent child under 18. I’m not sure if this qualifies, but if you were my client, I would actually exempt you from the student requirements because of your disabilities. Would you be able to appeal the decision? I mean, there’s a whole bunch of crap you have to go through (like I said, in my state) to appeal it, but it might be worth it, especially if you aren’t working.

  2. I’m going to make a more serious point, which is why I’m reposting;

    I grew up in what you’d call a poor household. There’s a bit of a disconnect for me because I’ve always lived with my mother, and my parents are divorced; my dad is comfortably middle-class, but he never raised me and contributed pretty much the bare minimum (i.e. hello court order). We occasionally lived with friends while I was a kid, and when we finally had a house of our own we took in lodgers, my mum had a small business doing interior decorating at weekends (don’t knock it, she made a fair bit doing this for a few years). Despite that, we never really got about £25,000 a year (which is above the average wage, but well below the average wage for a family which is around £40,000, and we lived in an expensive part of the country so it didn’t go a long way at all).

    My mum was determined that I would notice her financial problems as little as possible (and after a while, they became more and more significant; we downsized twice, and our initial house was not exactly a palace to begin with). Throughout all of this, we had traditions. At the worst time, when my mum was considering declaring bankruptcy and we could’ve lost our house, we still had our take-away dinner one night a week. The favourite gift I’ve ever received (a £4 glass elephant I had bizarrely fixated on) was during this time. I got new books, in particular, and mum tried to take me out.

    Because there’s one thing people who’ve never worried about money don’t get. They don’t understand how everything it is. Every time you think about anything you want to do, you have to think about money. Friends, going out, treats, even passive TV, school trips, birthdays, fucking Christmas, at the very least – your home, whether you’ll have to switch schools, whether you’ll have to leave the only place you’ve ever lived, whether you’ll be alone in a bad area or lost all the fucking time or have to pack everything up and move it…it ranges from tiny things to massive, overwhelming things. I remember my mother had to prepare me for the possibility of switching custody to live with my Dad, and the thing I thought I’d miss most was going to the Almonry tea shop in Ely (where we lived at the time).

    Those little luxuries; that MAC lipstick, that weave, they make you happy for a little while. Even when you’ve planned them, they surprise you, they remind you that you can still do things and enjoy things. You value them more. So fuck all of those fucking twats. They have no idea what they’re talking about. My mum got new shoes because it meant the next day she could walk into work feeling great about herself. Because of the little things, the “luxuries”, I went to school feeling like a person who did things, who had things; I felt lucky. I just can’t stand people who have no sense of humanity about these things. If you honestly think my mum didn’t rearrange our monthly finances so we could do something fun once in a while instead of counting our money by the kitchen table, then I have absolutely no reservations; I hate you. I hate you for being that fucking tiny.

    1. I still need to read the rest, but yours was the first comment I read following the article, and I wanted to tell you I got a bit choked up reading it. As a single parent, I do what I can. And by “what I can” I do not of course mean “driving multiple Cadillacs” or whatever the ugly stereotypes are at present. Making a decent life for yourself is hard enough. Making a decent life for a dependent – specifically, a very young dependent, who should not have to “get” everything involved in this debate – well, that’s a whole ‘nother level of awful. It sounds to me like your mom is/was awesome.

      1. I know it’s random and schmaltzy and over the internet and possibly overstepping, but however hopeless your child feels sometimes about not getting things they want, if my experience is anything to go by, they will recognise how strong one has to be in order to raise a child in circumstances like that, and value gigantically the special things you do for them. It’s perverse, but sometimes I’m happy I grew up recognising the value of a nice meal out with my mum. I’m not sure whether I’d value those sorts of things if I were wealthier.

        I still like to have tea with my mum. xD

        1. Seconded. I grew up in a situation very similar to yours, and I’m thankful for the lessons I learned. I see now how much my mother sacrificed and went through raising three girls alone, and I am so grateful for her and our family, what I have–no matter how small–I’m still thankful, how resourceful I learned to be and how I’ve never been afraid to be on my own.

        2. It’s not random and schmaltzy internet over-stepping. I do hope my kid grows up with an understanding of what it’s like to be poor. Not because I want his young life to suck, not because I want him to be deprived (pshaw! he’s got grandparents who are willing/able to totally spoil him), but because he should understand that the stuff he enjoys having doesn’t just materialize.

          Raising a boy when one is a rad-fem is challenge upon challenge. I love him and do not want to deprive him of good life experiences. But I do want him to appreciate them, rather than regard them simply as his due. It’s tough.

        3. Thirded. I also grew up in a similar situation. It amazes me that I am able to do so much more with less money than my wealthier friends. Growing up poor is tough, but it gives you strength and responsibility that not many people with easy childhoods ever obtain.

  3. This makes me angry like bear. I am waiting for my Social Security Disability hearing for mental health, and I am poorer than poor. I am white and single and childfree. Riddle me that, motherfucker who made that card. I am on food stamps, and without them, I would not be able to eat. Because I got a Groupon, I’m finally going to get my hair cut and highlighted tomorrow, and it will be the first time since last April. My hair is almost to my waist. Yeah, I’m living large over here. I will have group therapy on Thursday, and I’m afraid I’m going to feel judged because I spent money on myself, albeit a quarter to a third of what I would normally pay. (My regular–um, once a year–hairstylist is pregnant and on bed rest.) Why am I trying to rationalize it? Why do I feel like I must make excuses?

    I got one pair of shoes last year that cost $25–my sister bought them for me. I’ve gotten zero new clothes, and no new purses in at least two years–as long as I can remember. I bought one tube of Almay mascara (with a coupon) that I’ve used twice (most recently was Christmas) b/c I don’t really care how I look, yet I hope the haircut and highlights will help change that a little–make me feel a little better about myself. I purchase only medications for myself (ones that I can’t get filled at the free dispensary) and pet food for my ten and 13-year-old cats. I spend money on only the very basics, and I can tell you that the folks I see at the clinic and dispensary seem to be in the same shape as me.

    Do the proverbial mile walk in my shoes, is all I have left to say.

    1. I grew up extremely poor and am going through some financial difficulty myself right now, so I know exactly what you are talking about. It’s beyond infuriating when people are rude to poor people and give them derogatory labels.

      Apparently “poverty-shamers” think that deriding and abusing a person will “encourage” him/her to “stop being poor.”

      1. Right! Because being poor and having to depend on institutionalised charity to survive day to day is so awesome and without all these regular people reminding us how much it sucks, we might just decided to stay there and “work the system” forever.

  4. I really feel that this is an extension of a particularly virulent and disgusting stripe of American politics which basically argues that the state has no responsibilities to its citizens, but has somehow managed to do this by trumpeting the argument that the state has no “place in the lives” of its citizens. So, in other words, they’ve managed to make a responsibility sound like an intrusion.

    From this, I have to conclude that the Republican party is about fourteen. Maybe fourteen and a half.

      1. See, the issue is that no sane woman has ever let a virulent Republican anti-choicer near her pink parts without some degree of coercion. (I include brainwashy upbringing in this idea of “coercion”.) So now they’re all spooked cause they’ve never seen a vagina and deal with it the same way they deal with everything else: bombing the shit out of any autonomy it might have.

        I apologize for all mixed metaphors. I may be drunk.

  5. This is at most tangentially related, but I must ask. Does anyone else feel like five years ago the average white American or mild-mannered racist knew jack what a weave was, yet today vastly overestimates its prevalence among the coiffures of black women?

    1. I’m going with “probably not” and then “yes”. My friend who is white has a weave (I guess; I don’t know what else you would call it–it’s tracks of hair glued in with her own, not braided in) b/c her hair is very thin. She’s the only person I know who has hair on her head that doesn’t sprout from her scalp. It seems like everyone on reality TV has weaves, regardless of race (Jersey Shore, Real Housewives).

  6. I laugh at people who say getting on assistance is easy. I nearly had to be hospitalized for my MH while going through the disability process. They make you undergo so much scrutiny and hell that it becomes impossible for someone with my issues (executive functioning! Understanding people! Understanding what you mean on that form!) to complete what they require without extensive support.

    It’s an utterly dehumanizing process, and I can’t judge anyone who clings to the small things that make them feel human again- purses, nails done, w/e- after enduring a process that tells you you are unworthy, non-human, and incapable of ANYTHING. Using positive language about yourself in an SSI setting? Can get your case tossed- if you are so positive, surely you can work enough to support yourself!

    1. I guess these people have never actually sat in on an administrative judge hearing the case of a woman with a disabled child. Specifically, they’ve never sat in while wondering when they need to dash out of the room with one of the older disabled children so that Mom can answer the judge’s questions while she bounces the youngest on her lap to keep it quiet. So she can answer those questions. And in this anti-choice political climate, somebody is gonna be ready to ask her why she had that disabled child, when she already had one that was disabled. LOL, you stupid bitch, don’t you know you should… what? She should what?!

      That’s just one story I have… and from and incredibly privileged legal bystander perspective. I wanted to hug that woman. I wanted to tell her she could drop her kids off with me for the day so she could relax and chill and just do her for a few blessed hours. But the system is set up to punish you for any brief moment of humanity.

      Hate it. Hate it so, so much.

    2. So true.

      As someone who grew up poor and whose mom was on welfare at times…it was incredibly tough to get on it and stay on it. We had conversations about it years later and she was scrutinized to such a degree that she hated applying for it and did whatever she could to avoid it. She hated being on it. Most of the time she didn’t bother as it was an incredibly small amount anyway and so we managed how we could.

  7. Medicaid is not only incredibly difficult to get (frequently b/c of legislation that makes the process 100x more difficult than it needs to be) it’s also difficult to keep. Even for individuals with life-long disabilities, there’s a grueling re-authorization process wherein the individual receiving assistance has to prove they’re still eligible at least every three years, sometimes as frequently as every six months.

    In most major metro areas, the services available to people who receive Medicaid are extremely limited, and often at medical centers and hospitals which lack the experts and resources available to self-pay and traditional employer-sponsored benefit holders. In addition to the sub-par care, these services also have extremely long wait times, either for appointments or walk in care. For folks who live outside of major metro areas, it’s even worse. In Indiana, for example, there may not be a hospital within 100 miles of a particular town that serves people on Medicaid.

    Didn’t Jesus have a catchy phrase about what we do to the “least” of us, we also do to Him? If I were Jesus, I’d be fire and brimstone pissed.

    1. Yup. My dad has to get re-certified constantly that he he has not magically grown a new spine and is able to work now. It sucks. And thank God he has a pension that is in effect on top of the medicare (as long as he stays certified non working spine, if you know, he grows that new spine he has to man up and go back to work), so he has a secondary insurance source. There is no way we could afford the specialists that he has to see on a regular basis without it.

  8. Yep.

    I just spent the last year on Medicaid for pregnancy medical and I am SO THANKFUL. I’m still on WIC with the babe and it is such a hassle and I feel red-faced in the store sometimes with my WIC checks. But I am a GRAD STUDENT making very little money, my husband owns his own business which  has its rises and falls and we’re doing our best to build a future for our son. You’re absolutely right that it is awesome to have this TEMPORARY support which allowed me to have fabulous pre-natal care, the healthy birth I wanted, and post-partum care for me and my son. I don’t know what I would have done had it not been available. . .and I hate that there’s that judgement that surrounds it!

  9. You know, after two years of hardship, toil, and struggle to get my father on S.S. disability and medicare, they did not in fact come and repo all the nice things he bought in the many long years that he worked. He still had nice shoes, a leather wallet, the wool trench coat that I bought him, and high end blue jeans because he wouldn’t buy ones that weren’t made in America. Funny that. And no, you cannot tell just by looking at him that he is disabled.

    Excellent take down. This attitude pisses me off so much.

    Edit: Medicare, I always get the two switched in my head.

      1. generally speaking, yes you have them flip-flopped. however you can be “young” and get medicare, and “old” with medicaid, and you can have both medicare and medicaid. its based on income & disability status as defined by social security.

  10. Ugh, this is still less egregious than one that I saw going around on facebook about a year ago, flat out insulting a woman for having the audacity to seek medical care while in possession of 1) tattoos 2) a weave and 3) fancy shoes. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but ALL the people who shared it were health care providers, and some of them were my family members. So many ragegasms.

      1. We see that with every type of victim-blaming, I think. Don’t we? If we try to point out to someone that “It wasn’t X’s fault that Y happened,” it frequently is read as “There is no way to prevent Y.” And we want, so badly, to believe that if you do all the right things, then Y will not happen to you. And yes, if you avoid Y when someone else did not – well, you were super smart and you did a good job, right?

    1. It is really extraordinary how many people consider poor people subhuman, in a way. Not only should they prostrate themselves before the better off (just work harder, poor people! You’re not trying hard enough! Behave perfectly, even though no one else does!), but they also can’t be trusted to raise their children properly, take care of their own health, or make informed decisions. If they do any of these things, it’s probably because a smarter, more educated, more well-to-do person gave them the idea! We’re just not that far past thinking that poor people are a separate species. Plus, racism. Things are going really well.

      1. So true.

        I find that so interesting. We expect them to be absolutely PERFECT in every single other endeavor if they’re poor. Because once you lack a job you better not screw up in any other way. And if you do it will just give us more reason to look down on you.

          1. So true!

            I was just thinking of my student loans, my credit card debt, living with my parents, struggling to get a career going, etc…but because I’m not on welfare I automatically get a pass on judgement.

            It’s ridiculous. Why can’t people cut each other some damn slack?

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