Op Ed

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

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

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.

By Susan

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 replies on “Takedown: The Luxury of Medicaid”

I can’t stand the idea that the poor, the people who are on government aid, are just taking advantage of other people. I always wonder about the people who say those things; what would THEY want if they were in a situation where they didn’t have the money to pay the bills?

I can’t help but think that they would do the good old “MY situation is different” shtick.


I haven’t spoken to one of my cousins in almost two years, because he called me out in a similar fashion right after I had my son. He posted a comment on my Facebook wall, in response to my mention of being annoyed with the local DFCS office, because they wouldn’t return my phone calls. “Beggars can’t be choosers,” he said, “When you take advantage of the system and use my taxpayer dollars to take care of a son you can’t afford, you don’t have the right to be mad when they don’t call you back.” About twenty people on my friends list took him down, but he held true to his offensive views. We have not spoken since.

His own sister has Medicaid for both her kids and he grew up receiving aid himself in the form of child support and welfare. How he got to be so smug, entitled and hateful is beyond me. People just astound me sometimes with how intolerant they choose to be. If I had the choice between judging everyone I see or not judging them…I’d choose not to every time. And it’s weird to me that so many people seem to enjoy belittling others.

It gets worse.

This particular cousin happens to be gay, and at one time he and I were incredibly close. I credit he and my Mother for enlightening me to the problems the GLBT face in this country and they both really got me heavily into campaigning for GLBT rights. And to this day, that has stuck with me. My husband mentioned to him during this whole kerfuffle that “It seems hypocritical that you begrudge our family aid we desperately need when WE support YOU and your rights…when we put ourselves out there and fight for you to be treated equal in this country. Do we not deserve the same rights?” His response? “My being gay doesn’t cost you hard earned money. My being gay isn’t a drain on anybody. You being poor and having kids is.”


This is the kind of shit I hear from people – my own family included – about the clients that I see on a daily basis. I determine Medicaid eligibility in my county, and I usually avoid telling people exactly what I do. Because of this.

Sure, my clients piss me off on a fairly regular basis, if not on a minute by minute timeframe. But I will defend the shit out of them if anyone starts trash talking.

On the one hand, I feel like I need to step away from this thread or I’ll spend the rest of the night crying, and trying to cuddle my cat who so does not want to cuddle, cuz my kid is asleep (he is a far superior cuddler to the cat!).

On the other hand. Sitting in as a legal intern over the summer, I had this shit hammered home in a way that I always got at a political/ethical level, but… how it actually plays out, and what it takes to qualify, and the awful way The System will treat you while making this determination… I lack the words. Of course the folks drafting the laws have no idea what this looks or feels like. “Gaming” the system implies it’s some super-easy thing to do, like you just slip through the cracks. And… no. It does not work this way. But try explaining this to people who have already decided that those who receive any assistance have some sort of underlying “flaw.” No, seriously. Try. Maybe these folks are beyond our ability to reach them, but if some genius out there knows a way, I’m dying to hear it.

People who are “on the fence” – that’s one thing. But these people who assert they are ideologically opposed to such services are another thing entirely. Especially since so many of them claim to be “Christian”! Has anyone had any luck pointing out this inconsistency? By luck, of course, I mean getting them to acknowledge some sort of obligation to their fellow human beings.

I bought my Kate Spade purse for $16 on eBay, many years ago. My nails are usually painted, at home with cheapo NYC Color or Wet n Wild polish (or Zoya if I caught it during the free giveaway). I dare you to name the brand of my lip gloss. I don’t have a weave but my hair is nicely colored. Which I do at home for about $10. Maybe $20 if I do highlights.

I guess because I’m on Medicaid I shouldn’t want to look nice.

Of course, on the flip side, if I looked like a slob there’d be a whole other set of judgments going on.

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